“Technological advances have changed the media landscape drastically. Massive choices are available to viewers to access content on various mediums,” said Rajat Sharma, President, News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA), while speaking at the 14th annual meet.
Sharma said that mobile and the internet had become the predominant mode to access the content. While television may still be a dominant medium, news broadcasters have transitioned from linear to digital, digital being the future. Businesses are being leveraged to meet the challenges and adapt to this new reality. To embrace this changing landscape, the Board has decided to bring digital media news broadcasters within the membership of the Association.
“The change in the name of the Association was inevitable with the inclusion of digital media news broadcasters. Board decided to change the name from News Broadcasters Association (NBA) to “News Broadcasters & Digital Association” (NBDA),” said Sharma.
He further stated that the members at the EGM unanimously passed the modification in the name of the Association and the amendments to the Memorandum and Articles of Association.
“I am glad to inform the members that the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India has approved the new name and the amendments to the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The Board also decided that with the inclusion of digital media news broadcasters, the name of the self-regulatory body, News Broadcasting Standard Authority (NBSA), be rechristened as “News Broadcasting & Digital Standards Authority” (NBDSA). The NBA will look into complaints of both broadcasters and digital news media,” added Sharma.
Despite the assurance given by the present dispensation that they are committed to “self-regulation” and not for any “statutory regulation”, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines & Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules), thereby bringing digital media, including OTT platforms, digital news broadcasters and news aggregators, for the first time, within the ambit of government supervision. The IT Rules, which have been framed to regulate digital media, lay down a Code of Ethics to be complied by digital news broadcasters and establishes a Three-Tier Grievance Redressal Mechanism to ensure observance of the same. Similarly, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting also notified the Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2021(Cable Amendment Rules) to establish a Three-Tier Complaint Redressal Structure to ensure observance to the Programme Code and Advertisement Code under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994.
NBDA has challenged the constitutionality of both the IT Rules and Cable Amendment Rules in the Hon’ble Kerala High Court on various grounds, including because the Rules give the Government Authorities excessive powers to unreasonably and impermissibly restrict the freedom of speech and expression of the media under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Interim Orders were granted in favour of the NBA in both matters.
Sharma said that despite several months having passed, BARC ratings had not been restored as yet. The NBDA Board and BARC have had several discussions to ensure that reliable, credible, tamper-free data is made available to the news broadcasters. NBDA has stated that the corrupt, compromised, irrationally fluctuating data will not be accepted as the false narrative puts pressure to take editorial calls that run counter to the principles and ethics of journalism. NBDA believes in editorial standards of ensuring objectivity, neutrality, fairness and accuracy in reporting.
He further stated, “The pride of the Association is the independent self-regulatory body set up fourteen years ago. NBA (formerly known as News Broadcasting Standards Authority) has put a time-tested complaint redressal system and process, headed by eminent judges of the Supreme Court of India and eminent persons who have striven to improve broadcasting standards. I firmly believe that the NBDA will become a strong collective voice for broadcast and digital media. Along with commercial and regulatory issues, it will also enable the Association to defend the fundamental right of free speech and expression guaranteed to the media under the Constitution of India in a better manner.”
The Covid pandemic started in March 2020, resulting in broadcasters completely recalibrating their working environments and practices. Working from home and using new tools became the new norm. The second wave of the pandemic was unprecedented this year.
“However, despite the enormous difficulties, our journalists, camerapersons and editorial staff went beyond their call of duty, put their lives at risk, and ensured that news and information of the pandemic and other important news reached millions of viewers. The seamless delivery of news to our viewers came at a huge cost – the loss of precious lives of our “Covid Warriors”. I salute our journalists and others who have lost their lives in the Covid Pandemic. Our condolences to the family members who lost their near and dear ones,” Sharma said.
Sharma thanked the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Yogi Adityanath, who facilitated the free vaccination drive for media personnel and their families. Over five thousand vaccinations were given in the first round. We are also grateful to the Chief Minister of UP for providing financial support of Rs 10 lakhs each to the family members of media persons who lost their lives during the pandemic.
He expressed his gratitude to the members of NBDA for the unstinted support the Board and I have received in conducting the affairs of the Association and took the opportunity to thank Anurag Thakur, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar, former Minister, MoI&B, Secretary, MoI&B, Chairman TRAI and officials in various Government Departments and the States for their continued understanding and support on issues which constantly confront us.
“On behalf of the Board and on my behalf, I would like to place on record our sincere gratitude and thanks to the Chairperson and Independent Members of the NBDSA for their support, invaluable guidance and time. Finally, I would like to thank Annie Joseph, Secretary-General, NBDA, for her efforts in ensuring that the objectives and initiatives of NBDA are achieved and implemented. I would also like to thank the staff of the NBDA Secretariat, Legal Counsel, Financial and Corporate Consultants, as well as the Auditors of NBDA and Bankers for their valuable time and cooperation,” Sharma concluded.