Exempt legacy media companies’ news sites from new rules: Media Body

Representatives of reputed media houses on Thursday urged the I&B ministry not to bring news websites attached to legacy media companies under the ambit of the three-tier regulatory framework — part of the recently announced IT rules — as they already follow norms of ethical coverage, ET has learnt.
The request was made in a meeting that I&B minister Prakash Javadekar and officials of the ministry held with senior executives in charge of digital news in media organisations. Members of Digital News Publishers’ Association (DNPA) that includes India Today Group, Dainik Bhaskar, NDTV, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, -News24Nation, Lokmat, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Eenadu, Malayala Manorama and others, were called for the meeting.

A participant on condition of anonymity told ET, “We told the minister that our websites follow the same regulations set by the Press Council of India (PCI) and/or News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA). The newsrooms are the same, and the editors approving the content for websites are also mindful of the norms newspapers and TV follow. We already have similar systems in place. So why put us through these regulations?”

DNPA later issued a statement thanking the minister for the “constructive meeting,” adding that “DNPA made suggestions that preserve freedom of the press and emphasised that all its members are bound by, and follow, regulations of PCI and/or NBSA.”Javadekar, in a tweet, said he discussed new rules with DNPA members, and has noted suggestions.

The government, on February 25, under the ambit of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, brought in detailed guidelines on content on both digital media and over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

Under new rules, social media companies, OTT streaming platforms and digital news publishers will now come under a three-tier regulatory regime and government oversight. Experts have said the rules can have far-reaching consequences for online privacy, freedom of speech and access to information.

A ministry statement on Thursday said digital news publishers would be required to furnish basic information, and rules seek to cover news of digital media to bring them at par with traditional media.
“Participants, while welcoming the new rules, stated that TV and newsprint media have been following laid down norms of the Cable Television Network Act and Press Council Act for a very long time. They felt they should be treated differently from news publishers who are only on the digital platform,” said the statement.

“However, there are contents which appear exclusively on the digital platform. There are also several entities which are only on the digital platform,” it said, adding that the ministry will hold further consultations with stakeholders. A ministry official said at the present PCA doesn’t include digital content, and discussions were going on in the ministry to make it more inclusive.