Regulatory Framework and Legal Aspects in Media Planning

17th November 2021 0 By indiafreenotes

Mass media regulations are rules enforced by the jurisdiction of law. Guidelines for media use differ across the world. This regulation, via law, rules or procedures, can have various goals, for example intervention to protect a stated “Public interest“, or encouraging competition and an effective media market, or establishing common technical standards.

The principal targets of mass media regulation are the press, radio and television, but may also include film, recorded music, cable, satellite, storage and distribution technology (discs, tapes etc.), the internet, mobile phones etc.

Principal foundations

  • Balance between positive and negative defined liberties: The negative defined liberties, legislating the role of media institutions in society and securing their freedom of expression, publication, private ownership, commerce, and enterprise, must be balanced by legislation ensuring the positive freedom of citizens of their access to information.
  • Balance between state and market: Media is at a position between the commerce and democracy.

Government control over media

Media in India are self- regulated. The government does not have control over the media except a few. It depends what type of media we are talking about. Media is broadly classified into 5 parts in India:

  • Print media in which more emphasis is given to Newspapers;
  • Broadcasting, includes Radio;
  • Cable and Telecommunication includes Television;
  • Films;
  • OTT platforms.


Generally, the government does not regulate newspapers and magazines. The Press Council of India is a quasi- judicial body constituted by the parliament and regulates print media in India. Its main objective is to maintain and improve the quality of newspaper and news agencies and to preserve the freedom of press. But it does not have the power to impose a penalty.  There are also other laws which deal with the regulations imposed upon the print media which include the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867 which came under British rule with the motive that if anything derogatory or explicit or ethically wrong/misleading or anything which creates a threat to the security and sovereignty of the nation, then the publisher can be proven guilty.


Government regulated

Television came to India in 1969 and back then the government was controlling it and used to show only those programmes which can educate, entertain and inform the people. Doordarshan along with AIR is completely under government control working as department of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. All the programmes were shown on Doordarshan channel which was controlled by the government. Later on with the establishment of Prasar Bharati Act 1990, Doordarshan along with AIR became autonomous in 1997.

Private ownership

But in the early 90’s the government faced financial problems and then they started with private channels, which later started to turn into companies and started earning huge profit but at the same time the quality of the programmes started degrading and the need of regulation was felt. All the private channels came together and insisted not to imply any law instead proposed the self created guidelines and assured the court to abide by it.

Other self- regulatory bodies which govern television content in India without government intervention includes Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997, Policy Guidelines for downlinking of Television Channels and Guidelines for obtaining DTH license among others. News channels are governed by a self-regulation body, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA).


Government regulated AIR

With the liquidation of Indian Broadcasting Company in 1930, the government of India started controlling radio broadcasting. Firstly it was called All India Radio in 1936 and later was renamed as Akashvani from 1957. With the establishment of Prasar Bharati Act, 1990 the radio broadcasting became free from government control and later AIR also became an autonomous body without government control.

Private radio broadcasting

There are ranges of different types of private broadcasters from big Multinational Corporation to small local FM stations. All private broadcasters usually earn a huge profit. As radio was almost used by every household the government in 1999 approved the establishment of 150 private FM radio stations.


Film industry of India is completely free and independent. The filmmakers are free to make the film as they want. But the distribution networks of films are controlled by the government. Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is a statutory film certification body in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India. The main task of CBFC is to regulate the public exhibition of films in theatre by giving certificates and not to do censorship of the contents under the provision of Cinematography Act, 1952.  The board currently issues four certificates. The certificates are:

U: Unrestricted public exhibition.

U/A: Parental guidance for children under age 12.

A: Restricted to adults.

S: Restricted to a specialised group of people, such as engineers, doctors or scientists.

The board may also refuse to certify a film. In the recent case of Phantom Film Pvt. Ltd. & Anr vs. Central Board of Film Certification, the film titled “Udta Punjab” what CBFC did that they acted beyond its power and gave direction to delete the name of Indian states given in the title of the film and even to remove references to several cuss words, and inexplicably, the deletion of a name of a dog jackie chan. The CBFC granted ‘A’ certificate to the film and then the producer of the film challenged the decision of CBFC before the Bombay High Court, 1 wherein the producers sought that the ‘A’ certification be granted without any conditions or cuts in the film. The Bombay High Court examined each of the deletions proposed by the CBFC, and held that the film cannot be objectionable merely due to depiction of the use or sale of drugs in a particular state and because of the political references therein and opined that the story must be viewed in its entirety.

National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) was established in 1980 with the task of promoting good cinema, to produce and finance films, and overseas distribution of films.

National Centre of films for Children’s and Young People (CFSI) established in 1955, which produce and distribute films which essentially provide a clean and healthy environment for children and young people.

OTT Platforms

As OTT platforms are not regulated by any statutory body it enjoys ample amount of freedom and displays content with all sought of vulgarity. But in the recent time OTT platforms like (Hotstar, Voot, Netflix, Amazon prime etc) have considered self regulation of online content through voluntary code specifically for language, violence and sex.

Importance of Media Regulation

Media regulation would include regulation of conduct, structure or content of media. Regulation would prohibit libel and defamation, would set up provision regarding national security, obscenity, blasphemy, sedition promoted via the media, regarding the contents of films. Media regulation would also help in protecting privacy laws, laws concerning intellectual property rights, and prohibitions against incitement to violence or racial hatred, pornography etc. Need for regulating the press is also important in terms of moderating or supervising the credibility of the information that is published. News that has been displayed on television or published in a newspaper should be factual and based on actual happening; it should be a justified interpretation of the event and not “point of view” of what has happened.

Media Laws

During British period as well as post independence of India there have been various laws or legislation passed by the authorities in order to regulate the media activities and to protect the freedom of media. To name some of the important media laws:

  • First Press Regulation, 1799
  • Gagging Act, 1857
  • Indian Press Act, 1910
  • Vernacular Press Act, 1878
  • Constitutional Provisions regarding Press Freedom
  • Official Secrets Act, 1923
  • Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867
  • Contempt of Court Act
  • Cinematography Act, 1952
  • Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956
  • Parliamentary Proceedings Act, 1956
  • Delivery of Books and Newspapers Act, 1954
  • Copyright Act, 1957
  • Press Council of India Act, 1965
  • Prasar Bharati Act, 1990
  • Cable Television Regulation Act, 1995
  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 1997
  • Sports Broadcasting Signal (mandatory sharing with prasar bharati) Act, 2007