The much-awaited draft national broadcasting policy that was okayed by the cabinet on Monday calls for restriction on the broadcast of programmes that satires national ideals and objectives, undermine people, harm unity and solidarity of Bangladesh as an independent state.
The policy has provision to ban broadcast that 'demeans' the armed forces or law enforcement agencies.
The policy also aimed at prohibiting the broadcast of programmes that might unleash separatism and unrest in the country and create hatred among different castes, creeds and religions.
The approval was given at the regular weekly meeting of the cabinet held at the Bangladesh Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
"The National Broadcasting Policy, 2014" is understood to ensure freedom of speech, free flow of information and social responsibility of the mass media and flourishing of independent and responsible mass media," Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told reporters after the meeting.
The broadcasting policy became imperative, as the print media and news agencies are under the purview of Printing Press and Publications (Declaration and Registration) Act, 1973, while the electronic media-- both state-run and private satellite TV channels-- were not covered by any laws or policy.
Bhuiyan said the policy would come into effect through a gazette notification and be applicable for both the government and private media.
He, however, said the policy would be implemented gradually through an independent 'Broadcasting Commi-ssion' and it will be a statutory body. The draft policy, however, does not mention any timeframe for the formation of the commission.
The policy states that the independent commission would monitor the media reports and recommend applicants for broadcast licences.
The commission will also monitor TV and radio programmes to ensure accountability and protection of public interests. It will also prepare and enforce a guideline for broadcasters, said the secretary.
The Information Ministry will be the lead ministry for implementation of the policy till the formation of the independent commission, the cabinet secretary added.
The policy will also restrict airing news or programmes that invade personal privacy and impede the state security and hurt religious values and non-communal spirit.
Popular prime time TV talk shows will also come under watch of the broadcasting policy as it would restrict inflammatory comments on the live talk shows.
The policy discourages news or programmes in favour of any country which would be harmful to other countries and affect the relations with friendly countries.
The news that can encourage rebellion, anarchy, and violence and inspire corruption directly or indirectly will have to be avoided, as per the policy. It will not allow any news or programmes to be aired ridiculing the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies.
A 16-member committee constituted in November 2012 drafted the policy and was submitted on September 5 last year. The draft policy was posted in the official website to elicit feedback from media professionals, media rights groups and media institutions.
A draft committee, headed by the information secretary, was formed with maximum members from mass media, NGOs and other professional bodies to draft the policy, the cabinet secretary said. It also held consultation meetings with various stakeholders before compiling the draft.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Ministry reviewed the draft and gave its recommendation before its finalisation.
The Broadcasting Commission would later be constituted through enacting a law and its chairman and members would be selected through a Search Committee, comprising members of mass media and other professional bodies.
The independent commission will formulate necessary rules and regulations to implement the policy and will have the authority to issue licence for mass media.
Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu told the Daily Observer that according to the new policy all of the 24 private television channels and 10 FM radio stations will be under the scanner of independent Broadcasting Commission.
The policy is not a deviation from the agreements signed by the owners of the private electronic media when licenses were issued, Inu assured.
However, Muhammad Jahangir, a media personality, said majority of clauses in the policy is a tool to control the electronic media. "How will the commission monitor a live broadcast, when it is already put on air?"
Inu scoffed off criticism that the policy will gag the broadcasts of electronic media, especially the talk shows.
Jahangir argues that no broadcast by any private TVs and FM radios have insulted the spirit of the liberation war, the moral issue of the national unity or demean the armed forces. Have any electronic media violated unwritten broadcast ethics in the last one decade, h