The opportunity to benefit from the cable television networks has been rapidly increasing all over the country as a result of proper accessibility of foreign channels through satellites. Some of the programmes demonstrated on these channels are strange and against the usual way of life of the people. The undesirable and unwanted programmes including advertisements remain unchecked and unregulated. In order to bring the cable networks within the limits of law and specify consistent standards in their operation, the President promulgated Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Ordinance on September 29, 1994 which was re-promulgated in 1995. Again in 1995, the Parliament enacted The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act replacing the ordinance promulgated by the President.
The Act defines ‘cable operator’, as a person who makes available the cable services by means of a network and regulates the administration and management of such network. The cable service is the broadcast of programmes by means of cables and the re-transmission through broadcast television signals. Moreover the Act explains the meaning of cable television network as a method that includes a group of closed transmission path and related signal creation, regulation and allotment of equipments that are formed to provide cable network services.
The Act provides that the operator shall obtain registration to activate the cable television network. But where a person already engaged in the activity of cable operation shall obtain registration within ninety days of the commencement of the legislation. The application for registration shall be submitted before the registering authority by the person who expects to start the cable television network. The application shall include all the necessary information which shall be verified by the concerned authority. After verification if the authority is satisfied that the application fulfills the required conditions, registration shall be granted to the operator.
In the interest of the public the Central Government shall make it compulsory for all operators to broadcast programme by means of an addressable system from the prescribed date in the notification. The Central Government is also empowered under the Act to indicate the maximum sum that a cable operator can collect from the subscribers to take delivery of the programmes for the benefit of the public. The Act makes it obligatory for the operators to present a report before the Central Government in the specified method containing the total number of subscribers, amount charged from the subscribers and the subscribers who receive programmes broadcasted in fundamental service tier.
The operator shall take necessary precaution not to transmit programmes or advertisements that are against the programme code or advertisement code respectively. The operators shall retain a register for one year containing the details of the broadcasted programme in a month in the manner provided under the Act. The Act also states compulsory broadcasting of Dooradarshan channels without any removal or modification after the enactment of Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2000. The cable network systems shall not intrude into the activities of any authoritative telecommunication systems.
The Act penalizes a person with imprisonment and fine for the contravention of the provisions of the Act. Where any programme is not in consonance with programme code, the concerned authority shall prohibit the telecast of such programme. The Central Government is authorized to frame rules in certain areas prescribed under the Act.
The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 has provided for an effective mechanism to control and regulate the activities of cable operators. The Act grants Central Government to fix the amount to be received from the subscribers but this provision has not satisfied the operators and till now there is no uniformity in collection of the subscription fee. The Act was amended in 2000 and thereafter 2002 to include many important provisions but until now there exists certain gaps that are to be encased.