The central government has refused to exempt the digital news content of mainstream television channels and print media from the ambit of the IT Rules, 2021. The government also asked them to take urgent steps to comply with the provisions of the digital media rules immediately.
The rationale for bringing the websites of the organizations under the ambit of the law is “well reasoned”, the information and broadcasting ministry said in a clarification to digital news publishers, publishers of online curated content or OTT platforms, and associations of digital media publishers on Thursday.
“Making any exception of the nature proposed will be discriminatory to the digital news publishers who do not have a traditional TV/print platform,” the ministry said.
Recently, The National Broadcasters Association (NBA) had recently written to the ministry, asking them to exempt and exclude the traditional television news media and its extended presence on digital news platforms from the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, claiming they are already “sufficiently regulated” by various statutes, laws, guidelines, codes, and regulations.
The Ministry said that since the code of ethics requires such digital platforms to follow the existing norms/content regulations, which are in vogue for the traditional print and TV media, there is no additional regulatory burden for such entities. Accordingly, the request for exempting the digital news content of such organizations from the ambit of digital media rules 2021 cannot be acceded to.
The Ministry also added that it does recognize that entities having traditional TV and print media are already registered with the government either under the Press and Registration Books Act or the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines of 2011.
The ministry clarified that when any news and current affairs content of a digital news publisher is transmitted on an OTT platform, such content would be outside the regulatory responsibility of that platform.
“However, if any OTT platform receives a grievance related to such news and current affairs, it may transfer the same to the publisher concerned of that content. Accordingly, there should not be any apprehension on this count either to the digital news publishers or to the OTT platforms,” it said.
The ministry noted that the television news channels already have a self-regulatory mechanism in place to adjudicate grievances relating to the violation of the program code under the Cable Television Network Act, 1995, and their internal codes or guidelines.
“The requirement of Level II under the Digital Media Rules, 2021 is only an extension of an existing institutional practice. Further, the composition of the self-regulating body would be decided entirely by the publishers and the government has no role to play,” the ministry said.
“It is neither stipulated nor intended for the government to either interfere or obstruct the formation of the self-regulating body including its composition,” it added.