CONCEPT OF BROADCASTING IN INDIA

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Broadcasting is a means of communication, and, therefore a medium of speech and expression. Hence, in a democratic society, neither any private body nor any governmental organization can claim any monopoly over it. The Indian Constitution also forbids monopoly either in the print or electronic media. The Constitution only permits state monopoly in respect of a trade or business. The Government can however claim regulatory powers over broadcasting so as to utilize the public resources in the form of the limited frequencies available for the benefit of the society at large and to prevent concentration of the frequencies in the hands of the rich few who can then monopolize the dissemination of views and information to suit their interests. In democratic countries, this regulatory function is discharged by an independent autonomous broadcasting authority which is representative of all sections of the society and is free from state control. In the case of Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v/s Cricket Association of Bengal[1], the Supreme Court has laid down the following three propositions:[2]

  1. The airwaves or frequencies are a public property. Their use has to be controlled and regulated by a public authority in the interest of the public and to prevent the invasion of their rights. Since the electronic media involves the use of the airwaves, this factor creates an in-built restriction on its use as in the case of any other public property.
  2. The right to impart and receive information is a specie of the right or freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a). A citizen has a fundamental right to use the best means of imparting and receiving information and as such to have access to telecasting for the purpose. However, this right to have an access to telecasting has limitations on account of use of the public property that is the airways, involved in the exercise of right and can be controlled and regulated by the public authority. This limitation imposed by the nature of public property involved in the use of electronic media is in addition to the restriction imposed on the freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • The broadcasting media should be under the control of public as distant from the Government. The central government shall, therefore, take immediate steps to establish to an independent autonomous public authority representative of all sections and interest in the society to control and regulate the use of airwaves.

The Supreme Court has also emphasized in the instant case that freedom of speech and expression involves not merely freedom to communicate information and ideas without interference but also freedom to receive the same also.

[1] AIR 1995 SC 1236

[2] M.P. Jain, The Indian Constitutional Law, Universal law Publications, 2005, p. 1072

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