The government has a plan to form an independent commission named the ‘National Broadcasting Commission’ to look after the online media outlets, including news portals and IPTV.
Sources said that the government would move to constitute the commission after formulating a law in this regard. However, the draft of the proposed law named ‘Broadcasting Act’ has already been finalised. The draft may be placed in the Parliament this year.
The proposed law states that a seven-member ‘National Broadcasting Commission’ would be formed. The proposed law provides details regarding the appointments of the members of the commission as well as the commissioners, their qualifications, the length of their terms, the conditions for their resignation or removal, their ranks and remuneration.
According to the draft law, the commissioners would be appointed through recommendations from a search committee. The commission will give broadcast licenses and will be the sole authority on the registration of online media outlets, including online news portals and IPTV.
An official of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said that the ministry is working for finalisation of the law. Meanwhile, state minister for information Dr Murad Hasan some days ago had said that the ‘Broadcasting Act’ will be passed in the parliament as soon as early.
The Cabinet approved the ‘National Broadcasting Bill’ in 2018, but it has not been placed in the Parliament till now. After the approval by the Cabinet, the bill was sent to different ministries for their approval. Alongside the ministerial process, it has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After getting Cabinet approval, the-then Cabinet Secretary Md Shafiul Alam had said that the new law was drafted after discussions with all stakeholders. It will go to the Parliament after getting approval by some other ministries.
Meanwhile, if the government desires, the National Broadcasting Commission can be formed before enactment of the law. A policy was formulated in this regard in 2017 which was updated in 2020. The policy empowers the government to form the fully independent commission in consultation with stakeholders.
However, the government wants to form the commission after enactment of the law so that no loopholes will remain in the formation process of the commission, said sources.
The draft of the Broadcasting Act contains a number of positive aspects including upholding the spirit of the Liberation War, promoting the indigenous culture, respect towards all religions, and equality in the society.
As per the draft law, media outlets could be fined and lose their licences if they publish or broadcast anything which goes against the national interest, or provokes militancy, violence and destructive activities. It includes a total of 24 crimes, which would be punishable by prison terms of up to seven years.
As per the draft law and the policy formulated in 2017, all newspapers, television channels and radio stations will need to obtain separate registration for running online news portals. The newspapers would also need to take separate permission from the authorities concerned if they make any variation in online versions from their print version. They will, however, need no separate permission for publishing their print version online.
In the draft policy, it was also said that until the National Broadcasting Commission is formed, online media would be regulated as per the existing rules as well as any other government body.