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This article is written by Duvada S H Neha Choudhury of 3rd Semester of Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, DSNLU


Television and radio are the most widely used modes of communication and entertainment. They communicate with people by making them aware of things around them through the news and entertaining them through music, films, shows, series, etc. This audio and video distribution is done through signals, and the transmission of these signals is known as broadcasting. This broadcasting is done either for the general public interest or for private or individual purposes. Broadcasting is done through various methods. Some of them are terrestrial broadcasting, satellite broadcasting, cable broadcasting, internet broadcasting, mobile broadcasting, etc.

Terrestrial broadcasting means the transmission of signals through the air by using antennas or any other ground-based infrastructures. It’s also known as over-the-air broadcasting and it was the first method of broadcasting television whereas Satellite broadcasting means transmission by using satellite networks. This method of broadcasting uses communication satellites that orbit around the planet to transmit signals. One of the common examples of satellite broadcasting is Direct-To-Home aka DTH TV, popularly known as dish TV in the general sense. With the advancement of technology, there are various methods of broadcasting introduced in the present day.

Broadcasting involves various rights and laws since they play an essential role in the day to lives of people and can influence and affect their interests. In this article, we will learn about the various aspects of broadcasting laws like what is broadcasting, terrestrial and satellite broadcasting, laws and the need for the same, case laws, developments, etc.

Keywords: Broadcasting, Satellite broadcasting, Terrestrial broadcasting, Broadcasting law, Television, and radio.


People in the present day got various kinds of sources to connect with the world. We live in a world where we can get information on any random topic. In this day and age, we may contact others via mobile phones, telephones, and social media. We have progressed from the period of exchanging letters to the era of digital communication. This applies to entertainment also. Humanity always seeks pleasure and the same is gained through various content that airs on television, radio, the internet, etc. They are also curious and always try to get information about the world’s happenings. This all can be done through broadcasting. It’s the process of transmitting information through signals to individuals living in various parts of the world. Some of the famously used methods of broadcasting are terrestrial and satellite.

When broadcasting provides a wide range of information and content, it should always be regulated as there might be various problems like privacy, piracy, copyrights, etc. Broadcasting is regulated by laws because they have to comply with and respect various laws that protect individuals. Broadcasting laws cover various topics like consumer protection, copyrights, licensing content, freedom of expression, and many more.


Broadcasting is the transmission of radio and television signals for the consumption of the general public. It can be with audio like in radios or can be both audio and visual like in televisions.[1] According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it also means “to spread something such as seeds over a wide area”[2] so it could be derived that the signals are transmitted all over the world for consumption of content by the people. It can also be considered as the source of mass communication.

It first started in the 1800s with the discovery of radio waves. The foundation of broadcasting with the discovery of wireless telegraphy which helped in the transmission of signals wirelessly. Radio broadcasting was the first broadcasting in the world. The first radio broadcast happened in the year 1906 by Reginald Aubrey Fessenden in the United States.[3] The British Broadcasting Company, founded in 1922, was the first organization to use the airwaves for experimental transmissions, which featured programs sponsored by newspapers. However, as per the Crawford Committee’s proposal, the British government dissolved the British Broadcast Company Ltd and established the non-commercial British Broadcasting Corporation in 1926.[4] Later on World War I contributed to the development of radio. The initial broadcasts on the radio were news, and music Television broadcasting began in the 1930s. Digital broadcasting started in the 1990s. In the present day, there are various platforms like Netflix, prime, youtube, etc, which revolutionized the perspective on how people consume audiovisual content.

Broadcasting in India began in November 1923 with the establishment of the Radio Club in Calcutta. Similar amateur broadcasting networks sprouted up in Bombay and Madras, thanks to the Indian Broadcasting Company. Due to diminishing licenses, the organisation fell bankrupt in June 1930. Following that, specific proposals were set up to buy and operate broadcasting stations, and broadcasting came under the direct control of the government under the Department of Labour and Industries in the early 1930s, and the Indian Broadcasting Company was renamed The Indian State Broadcasting Service. The Indian State Broadcasting Service was renamed All India Radio in 1935, and it was moved to the Department of Communication in 1941, which became a Ministry following India’s independence. When India was partitioned, the AIR network had six stations, five of which were in princely states. [5]

TERRESTRIAL BROADCASTING means a method of transmission of radio and television signals through the air using a ground interface. It is also known as the over-the-air mode of transmission or broadcasting. In this method, an antenna and broadcasting towers act as a receiver for the signals transmitted. It is the first method of broadcasting ever used. The most commonly used examples of terrestrial broadcasting are car radio, analog TV, digital terrestrial television a.k.a. DTT TV, etc.  It is accessible to a wide audience.

SATELLITE BROADCASTING is the transmission of radio and television signals across space utilising communication satellites. It entails transmitting signals from Earth to satellites circling the globe, which then retransmit the signals to Earth across a large coverage area. These signals can be received and decoded by viewers who have satellite dishes and receivers to access the delivered material. It began in the 1960s.On July 23, 1962, the first live Trans-Atlantic satellite program was aired in the United States and Europe through the communications satellite Telstar.  Two years later, the opening ceremonies of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games were live-streamed to the United States through satellite.  For the first time, live programming was made available to viewers all across the world.  It was all thanks to satellites that this constituted a tremendous leap in innovation and revolutionised the way viewers could observe the world around them.[6] The most commonly used examples for satellite broadcasting are Direct To Home TV, DISH TV, satellite radios, etc.


Broadcasting is one of the essential tools for mass communication. It is consumed as a part of life for the general public. There is a risk that this broadcasting can be misused if not regulated. There might be not too friendly content for the public or there might be a chance that some organisations can use this as a platform to propagate their own propaganda and influence young minds. In society, there are people from different cultural, economic, and social backgrounds. Media that is broadcasted should be inclusive for everyone for consumption. To avoid all these risks and problems, broadcasting content should be regulated and broadcasters should also be protected from issues like copyright, unfair competition, etc. There are various laws that regulate broadcasting in India. Some of them are:

  •  Indian Telegraph Act, 1855

The first wireless and radio broadcasting regulations before the foundation of the Government of Independent India. The Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 was the first important statute, granting the government authority over the creation, maintenance, and operation of wireless devices.  “Within India, the Central Government shall have the exclusive privilege of establishing, maintaining and working telegraphs.”[7]It also conferred the power to grant licenses to others to establish, maintain, or work a telegraph. [8]

  • Indian Cinematography Act of 1952

The Indian Cinematograph Act of 1952 is a law that governs the certification of cinematograph films for display and the regulation of cinematograph exhibits. The act created the Censor Board of India, often known as the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), an important organisation in India that controls film certification. The act has also created the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal a.k.a. FCAT. This act was subjected to amendments several times.

  • The Prasar Bharati (Broadcasting Corporation of India) Act, 1990

The act was enacted to form the broadcasting corporation of India i.e., Prasar Bharati. The act also defines the composition, structure, powers, and functions of the corporation. The act provides complete autonomy to the previously government-run organisations Doordarshan (television) and All India Radio a.k.a. Akashavani (radio). After being overwhelmingly enacted by Parliament, the Act obtained the President of India’s assent on September 12, 1990. It was ultimately put into effect in November 1997.

  • Cable TV Network Regulation Act, 1995

This legislation establishes a regulatory framework in India for the operation and administration of cable television networks. It defines principles for the registration, licensing, and regulating of cable TV providers and demands content standards compliance, including the prohibition of obscene or offensive content.

  • The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994

The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act specifies extensive provisions for cable TV operators on licensing conditions, technical standards, channel carriage, and content regulations. They also detail procedures for dealing with customer complaints and disputes.

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997

This statute created TRAI as an autonomous regulatory entity. Although primarily concerned with telecommunications, TRAI also regulates broadcasting services. TRAI safeguards fair competition, consumer protection, and service quality in the broadcasting industry. It establishes tariffs, quality standards, connectivity, and other broadcasting-related rules, guidelines, and recommendations.

  • Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (Ministry of I&B) is a ministerial-level agency of the Government of India in charge of developing and enforcing rules, regulations, and legislation governing information, broadcasting, the press, and Indian cinema. The Ministry is in charge of the management of Prasar Bharati, the Indian government’s broadcasting arm. Another major statutory entity under this ministry is the Central Board of Film Certification, which is in charge of regulating motion pictures aired in India. Sardar Vallabhai Patel was the first minister for information and broadcasting. The ministry is organised into 3 wings i.e., the information wing, the broadcasting wing, and the films wing.[9]

  • For running news and non-news channels in India, all Indian and international corporations must follow the Policy Guidelines for Uplinking of TV Channels from India (Uplinking Guidelines) and the Policy Guidelines for Downlinking TV Channels (Downlinking Guidelines). The Uplinking Guidelines principally address the licensing, operation, and broadcast of television stations uplinked in India for the benefit of Indian viewers. The Downlinking Guidelines govern the registration and licensing of foreign television networks in India by or via an Indian firm.[10]
  • The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has released Policy Guidelines for the Establishment of Community Radio Stations in India, as well as Policy Guidelines for the Expansion of FM Radio Broadcasting Services Through Private Agencies (Phase-III) (the Private FM Radio Policy Guidelines). Both standards specify the terms and conditions of the license, the control of material on FM channels, forbidden actions, and so on.[11]
  • Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000

It is legislation that governs numerous elements of electronic communication, including broadcasting. The legislation legalises electronic transactions, digital signatures, and electronic records. It tackles concerns such as online content regulation, cybercrime, and data protection in the context of broadcasting. The legislation gives the government the authority to control and oversee electronic communication services, including satellite broadcasting services. It defines criteria for satellite channel licensing, registration, and operation. The legislation guarantees that broadcasting adheres to ethical and legal standards and offers a framework for dealing with digital media offences and cyber threats.

  • The Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007

It’s an Act intended at giving broader access to athletic events of national importance. According to the Act, commercial broadcasters must share live broadcasting signals of such events with Prasar Bharati, the public broadcasting organization that operates Doordarshan. This provision guarantees simultaneous transmission on both Doordarshan’s terrestrial and DTH platforms, allowing people to see the events on free-to-air channels. The Act seeks to strike a balance between the financial interests of private broadcasters and the public interest in giving access to major athletic events to a broader audience, particularly those who do not have access to pay television.

Broadcasting was not directly mentioned in the Constitution but was interpreted in various ways concerning it and also impacted it indirectly. While making provisions, rules, and legislations regarding the subject matter, the legislators make sure that the fundamental rights of the citizens are not violated and are guided by the constitution regarding the same. Some of the provisions in the constitution that are indirectly related to broadcasting are mentioned below:

  • Freedom of Speech and Expression:

The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. This clause serves as the foundation for press and media freedom, including broadcasting. However, in the interests of sovereignty, integrity, and public order, appropriate limits can be imposed.[12]

  • Right to Information:

Articles 19(1)(a)[13] and 19(1)(g)[14] (right to practice any profession or carry on any employment, trade, or business)provide the basis for the right to information. The Constitution indirectly encourages information distribution and access to information via broadcasting platforms.

  • State Regulations:

Article 19(2) empowers the state to put reasonable limits on freedom of expression and speech. This enables the government to control broadcasting operations in the interest of public welfare and order, such as enforcing content standards and licensing regulations.[15]

  • Cultural and Educational Rights:

Articles 29(1)[16] and 30[17] of the Indian Constitution guarantee minority communities’ rights to preserve their language, script, and culture. These regulations have an indirect influence on broadcasting since they recognize the value of cultural and educational programs as well as the necessity for diversity in media content.

  • Directive Principles of State Policy:

The Indian Constitution’s Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) comprise principles that guide the state in creating policies. Article 39(b) emphasises the need of distributing ownership and control of material resources in a way that best serves the common interest. This idea has an indirect impact on broadcasting rules and ownership patterns.[18]


Broadcasting laws were majorly laid based on the case laws in India. The majority of the landmark cases in India revolved around the constitutional law of India under various provisions of the Constitution. Some of the landmark cases in broadcasting laws in India are:

  • Shiv Cable TV System v State of Rajasthan[19]

The case has put the reality of cable networks to the test. The issue developed as a result of a district administration order asking local police to block cable TV networks because the cable operators lacked the required licenses. The affected operators contested the district administration’s ruling in the Rajasthan High Court, claiming that there was no law requiring them to get network licenses. They claimed that the district administration’s actions infringed on their basic freedom to trade and conduct business. According to the state government, cable providers must seek licenses under the Telegraph Act and the Wireless Telegraphy Act to lawfully operate their networks. The Court ruled that lines and cables in a cable network were covered by the definition of a ‘telegraph line’ under the Telegraph Act, and cable operators were required to obtain statutory licenses for their dish antennas to download programs from satellites and transmit these downloaded programs to customers via their networks.[20]

  • Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India v. Cricket Association of Bengal (1995)[21]

The Supreme Court of India addressed the issue of cricket match broadcasting rights. The disagreement began when the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting attempted to restrict cricket match broadcasts and provide rights to a single broadcaster. The Court ruled that the airwaves are public property and that the government can restrict their usage. It emphasized the need of guaranteeing equal access to information and said that broadcasting rights for national events can be provided through a transparent and fair bidding procedure. The Supreme Court of India ruled in this case that the airwaves are public property and that the government has the ability to regulate their usage, including the broadcasting of cricket matches. The case established the government’s jurisdiction over broadcasting content as well as the necessity for licenses to broadcast national events.

  • K.A. Abbas v. Union of India [22]

In this case,  the petitioner challenged the legality of censorship as a violation of his basic right to free expression. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, observed that pre-censorship of films under the Cinematograph Act was justified under Article 19(2) on the grounds that films had to be treated separately from other forms of art and expression because a motion picture was able to stir up emotion more deeply, resulting in the classification of films into two categories ‘A’ (for adults only) and ‘U’ (for all).[23]

  • LIC v. Manubhai D. Shah (Prof.)[24]

In this case, the right to broadcast was also recognised. In this case, the difficulty was Doordarshan’s refusal to broadcast the documentary “Beyond Genocide” about the Bhopal gas catastrophe.” Doordarshan refused to air the film for a variety of reasons, including that it was out of date, no longer relevant, lacked moderation and restraint, was unfair and unbalanced, political parties were raising a number of issues related to the tragedy, the victims’ claims for compensation were still pending, the film would likely stir up trouble in an already tense environment, and it criticised the state government’s actions. The Supreme Court held that Doordarshan, a state-controlled agency that relies on public funds, could not refuse to screen the film because it could not provide a persuasive rationale under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which upholds the freedom to broadcast.[25]


We have seen the increasing popularity of the OTT platforms in the society due to the pandemic. To regulate these platforms the Information Technology (Intermediary guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Codes) Rules 2021was introduced by the ministry of information and broadcasting and provided guidelines to the OTT and digital media platforms regarding the grievance redressal. The Cable Television Network (Amendment) Rules 2021 was also introduced to grant legal legitimacy to television self-regulatory organisations and create the way for a formal system for resolving citizens’ grievances or complaints about material aired by television channels in accordance with the terms of the Cable Television Network Act 1995.[26]


Terrestrial and satellite broadcasting have evolved over years and have made many significant changes in the society. It has changed the way people viewed content over the years. We have seen how these laws play a crucial role in protecting public interest, consumer protection, safeguarding national security. We have the information and broadcasting ministry to make rules, laws and regulations for the broadcasting services in India. The constitution plays an important role indirectly because all the laws are made in order to not violate or override the provisions of the constitution. It protects the interests of people through fundamental rights, directve principles of state policy etc. We also saw how landmark cases have helped in interpreting the laws and provided a better understanding on the same. These laws ensure the protection of consumer interests and adapt according to the recent trends and need in the society. Overall, these rules aim to strike a balance between the interests of broadcasters, content providers, viewers, and the general public, therefore ensuring a thriving and responsible broadcasting business in India.

[1]Broadcasting ,Jorge A. Camacho, Roger Manvell, Britannica, Available on: https://www.britannica.com/technology/broadcasting, last seen on: 16/06/2023.

[2]Meaning of broadcast in English, Cambridge Dictionary, Available on:https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/broadcast, last seen on: 16/06/2023

[3] Supra 1.

[4]Jyoti Prakash Mohapatra, B. Sundaresan, Dr. Ansuman Jena, Development of Public Service Broadcasting in India: Roles, Challenges and Possibilities, 3 International Journal of Social Science Tomorrow 1, 2 (2014), Available at:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316918152_Development_of_Public_Service_Broadcasting_in_India_Roles_Challenges_and_Possibilities, last seen on: 16/06/2023.

[5]Ibid, at 3.

[6] Broadcast: Satellite TV & Radio, Satellite Industry Association, Available at: https://sia.org/satellites-services/broadcast-satellite-tv-radio/, last seen on: 17/06/2023.

[7]S. 4, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885

[8]Sevanti Ninan, HISTORY OF INDIAN BROADCASTING REFORM, 5Cardozo Journal of

International and Comparative Law 341, 342 (1997)

[9]About the ministry, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, available at: https://mib.gov.in/about-us/about-the-ministry#, last seen on: 18/06/2023.

[10]In brief: media law and regulation in India, Lexology, Available at: https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=225d5e03-f14c-492f-b2a4-c55f49a063d1, last seen on: 18/06/2023

[11] Ibid

[12] Art. 19(1)(a), the Constitution of India

[13] Ibid

[14] Art.  19(1)(g), the Constitution of India

[15] Art. 19(2), the Constitution of India

[16] Art. 29(1), the Constitution of India

[17] Art. 30, the Constitution of India

[18] Art. 39(b), the Constitution of India

[19]Shiv Cable TV System v. State of Rajasthan, 1993 SCC OnLine Raj 27

[20] Ibid. 

[21] Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Govt. of India v. Cricket Assn. of Bengal, (1995) 2 SCC 161

[22] K.A. Abbas v. Union of India, (1970) 2 SCC 780

[23] Chitranjali Negi, Broadcast Law in India-Indian laws about broadcasting industry,  Santaniello & Partners, Available at: http://www.legalsl.com/it/broadcast-law-in-india-1.htm, last seen on: 18/06/2023

[24] LIC v. Manubhai D. Shah (Prof.), (1992) 3 SCC 637

[25] Vaibhav Singh, Evolution Of Broadcasting Laws In India, Legal Service India e-journal, Available at: https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-10364-evolution-of-broadcasting-laws-in-india.html, last seen on: 18/06/2023.

[26] Digital communication, broadcasting platforms saw significant changes in 2021, The Economic times (03/01/2022), Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/india/digital-communication-broadcasting-platforms-saw-significant-changes-in-2021/articleshow/88665184.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst, last seen on: 18/06/2023


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