Quick formation of a truly independent Broadcast Commission is now vital, as it will be the ultimate authority to implement the National Broadcast Policy for radio and television.
Stakeholders who were involved in formulating the first such policy in the country for electronic media said the information ministry should not start implementing the policy before the commission is constituted.
The weekly cabinet chaired by the prime minister on Monday approved the policy.
Many of those involved in the broadcast media said the government might misuse it in the name of maintaining standard of news, programmes and advertisements in the electronic media.
The policy did not mention any timeframe for formation of the commission. Taking this advantage, the government may dillydally in constituting the commission and allow the information ministry to enforce the policy, they added.
The policy will be in force once the information ministry issues a gazette notification, which is due in a day or two. The authority of implementing the policy will be bestowed upon the commission after its formation.
The information ministry will place a bill in parliament to enact National Broadcast Act, which will have directives about formation of the commission.
Both the information minister and the cabinet secretary assured journalists on Monday that the law would be enacted soon.
According to the policy, a search committee comprising government officials, journalists and other stakeholders will select its chairman and members and the president will appoint them later. The policy, however, did not specify the size of the commission.
“The all important issue is to form an independent broadcast commission which can implement the policy properly and if necessary, modify it upon consultation with the stakeholders,” said Prof AJM Shafiul Alam Bhuiyan, chairperson of Dhaka University's film and television studies department.
Shafiul Alam, who was involved in formulation of the policy, said most countries around the world have such policies to streamline electronic media. So, Bangladesh also needed it.
He, however, said except for two things -- an independent commission and protection of privacy -- there was nothing new in the policy. All the other things have been taken from the guidelines of the BTV, Betar, Censorship Code and Wireless Act of 1935.
“The positive thing is that we now have a broadcast policy based on which we can move ahead to bring discipline in the industry,” observed Boishakhi TV Chief Editor Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul.
He added the policy said nothing about protecting the professional rights of those working in the broadcast media like that of the wage board for those working in the print media. “We wanted a policy that would help flourish the media.”
Bulbul, also president of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, urged the government to form a "truly independent commission" soon that will not only implement the policy but also bring changes to make the policy acceptable to all.
“The commission must not be controlled by the government but implement the policy neutrally,” he added.
Media professionals and experts oppose any policy which may curb the independence of the mass media.
But the government claimed the policy was made to ensure freedom of speech, free flow of information and social responsibility of the media.
Shykh Siraj, director (news) of Channel i, termed the formulation of the policy a good, positive move but said parts of it were worrying.
The ban on broadcasting false, discriminatory and misleading information and statistics in talk shows is one of them, said Siraj, also general secretary of Association of Television Channel Owners (ATCO).
This may lead to the closure of talk shows, he added.
ATCO will sit today to review the policy and give its formal reaction.
Meanwhile, a section of journalists of BFUJ and Dhaka Journalists Union (DJU) yesterday set fire to copies of the draft policy before the Jatiya Press Club, terming it a "black policy".
They demanded that the government cancel it immediately and threatened to wage a tough movement across the country.