The approval came at the weekly meeting of the Cabinet held at the Secretariat with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The Cabinet also approved the draft of Mass Media Employees (Services and Conditions) Bill 2018 in principle with a provision to constitute wage board for journalists and employees of all media houses, including electronic ones.
As per the Broadcast Bill, a five-member search committee will place its report before the President to form the seven-member Broadcast Commission, said Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam while briefing reporters after the meeting.
He said the President will appoint members of the commission, including a chairman and with at least a female member.
“The Broadcast Bill 2018 is a new one which was framed following consultations with all stakeholders. The Bill has been placed (in the Cabinet) to bring the broadcast media, including online one, under discipline,” said the Cabinet Secretary.
The Broadcast Commission will have the unilateral authority to provide licences to broadcast media and revoke those. But the Commission will have to take prior permission from the government in case of providing any licence in this regard.
As per the Bill, the Commission will have to dispose of any complaint to be lodged against any media house within 30 days after receiving it.
It will have the authority to suspend or revoke the licence of any broadcast media on seven grounds.
The licence will have to be renewed providing fee to be fixed as per the rules, the Cabinet Secretary said.
If anyone is declared as deranged or bankrupt, or sentenced to maximum two years’ jail, or identified as a loan defaulter, or anyone fails to meet the standards to be fixed by the Commission will be disqualified to get the broadcast media licence, he said.
If anyone, who has no qualification to have licence, continues to run a broadcast outlet, he/she will have to suffer maximum seven years in jail or pay Tk 5 crore as fine or both, Shafiul Alam said.
He said the Bill mentioned a total of 24 offences, including placing and broadcasting misleading and untrue information of discussion programmes, violation of directives of different national important programmes such as the speech of the heads of the state and the government, and emergency weather notices, and broadcasting programmes or advertisement that goes against the ideology and spirit of the Liberation War and the country.
He added that the maximum punishment of the offences will be a three-year imprisonment or Tk 5 crore as fine or both. “In case of continuation of such a crime, the accused person will have to pay Tk 1 lakh as fine for every day.”
The Cabinet Secretary said the offences will be non-cognisable and bailable and police can arrest anyone without any warrant for the crimes.
About the Mass Media Employees (Services Conditions) Bill 2018, Shafiul Alam said the wage board will be applicable for journalists and employees of all the media outlets, including print and electronic and online ones, as per the Bill.
According to the Bill, the working hours for media employees will be 36 hours in a week instead of 48 hours, while the casual leave will be 15 days instead of 10 days annually and the earned leave will be 100 days instead of 60 days in every three years, he said adding that if any employee works for more than 36 hours in a week, he or she will get payment for overtime.
Besides, the festival leave will be 10 days in a year, recreation leave will be one month after every three years, and the maternity leave will be six months in place of the existing eight weeks.
If anyone or organisation violates the provisions of the Bill, s/he will be fined Tk 50,000-Tk 5 lakh, the Cabinet Secretary said.
He said the government will form a wage board for mass media employees keeping consistency with the proposed law. The decision of the wage board will be obligatory for all mass media to abide by, he said.
Employees can lodge case with the relevant court to realise their arrears and dues, the Cabinet Secretary said.
Besides, the Cabinet cleared the draft of Cost and Management Accountants Bill 2018 to replace the existing ordinance promulgated in 1977 during the military regime.
As per the Bill, the proper standards will have to be followed in preparation of financial reporting, Shafiul Alam said.
The Cabinet also approved the Plant Variety Protection Bill 2018 aiming to protect intellectual property rights of local farmers alongside the researchers and experts.
The new proposed law was prepared as Bangladesh has an obligation to protect intellectual property rights regarding plant variety under the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement and the International Convention on Biological Diversity.
Besides, the Cabinet approved the draft of Bangladesh Rehabilitation Council Bill 2018 with a provision to form a 33-member board of council to regulate the rehabilitation centres of persons with disabilities.
It cleared the National Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy 2018.
Apart from this, the Cabinet approved a proposal to mark October 6 as the Birth Registration Day every year.