The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) – the collective voice of the news & current affairs broadcasters in India, has written a letter on May 27, 2021, to Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, regarding exemption and exclusion of traditional television news media and its extended presence on Digital News Platforms from Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021.
The letter attempts to apprise the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting [MoI&B] of NBA’s concerns about the recent Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 [IT Rules 2021] and its applicability to the digital medium of the linear television channels of the members of NBA.
The letter written to the Minister read, “The Information Technology Act, 2000 [IT Act, 2000] had not contemplated the regulation of Digital News Media. Despite this, the IT Rules, 2021 seek to, among other things, include traditional news media, i.e., electronic television news media having a digital news feed and presence on other digital media platforms, within its purview. This appears to be ultra vires the IT Act, 2000. In view of the above, the principal concern of NBA is the inclusion of the traditional electronic/television’s digital news media within the scope of the IT Rules, 2021, especially as enough safeguards exist to regulate the content of both mediums.”
“In any event, while NBA appreciates the need for regulations, the traditional news media need not be subjected to and/ or covered under the scope of the IT Rules 2021, since it is already sufficiently regulated by various Statutes, Laws, Guidelines and Codes, Regulations, and Judgements,” the letter stated.
The letter further read, “The IT Rules 2021, if applied to the digital media of the linear television medium, would only result in duplication of the adjudicatory and redressal mechanism resulting in the creation of parallel adjudicatory bodies. The IT Rules, 2021, prescribe administrative regulations, which will make it virtually impossible for small or medium-sized traditional news media organisations to survive. Any additional mandates as contemplated under the IT Rules, 2021 would result in increasing the employee costs and compliance requirements of the traditional news media organisations along with duplication and creation of parallel processes. The media organisations would have to devote significant resources and time in resolving each complaint and in defending themselves before multiple forums. Therefore, NBA suggests that the focus should primarily be on further strengthening the already existing mechanism of NBSA and giving statutory recognition to NBA’s Code of Ethics under the Cable TV Rules.”
The letter pointed out certain deficiencies of the IT Rules, 2021, “The use of terms like ‘half-truths’, ‘good taste’, ‘decency’ which are words that are vague and ambiguous, enact excessive regulations for the digital medium so that a level playing field be maintained with the traditional electronic news media; and treat digital media as a ‘Social Media Intermediary’ or ‘Significant Social Media Intermediary’.”
The letter further stated, “The electronic news media is no different from print media, and the majority of content hosted on their digital platforms is nothing but a replica of content which is already a part of the broadcast and has also passed the litmus test of being compliant to the various applicable regulations. The digital news media owned and operated and directly run by traditional news media ought not to be brought under the ambit and purview of the IT Rules, 2021.”
NBA also stated that in any event till such time as the pending matters challenging the IT Rules, 2021 in the various High Courts are adjudicated upon and decided, the IT Rules, 2021 should be kept in abeyance/suspension specifically with regard to the members of NBA already have an independent self-regulatory body, NBSA to adjudicate upon all complaints received by it.