The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has circulated an order clarifying that the ministry shall not grant any extension for furnishing of information under Rule 18 of IT Rules 2021 and neither will there be any exceptions made.
In a letter the ministry, said, “The rational for including the digital news portals/websites of the organizations having traditional news platforms under the ambit of Digital Media Rules 2021 is well reasoned. Making any exception of the nature proposed will be discriminatory to the digital news publishers who do not have a traditional TV/print platform.
“As already mentioned, since the Code of Ethics requires such digital platforms to follow the existing norms/content regulations which are in vogue for 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,” it added.
However, the ministry stated, it does recognise 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, said, “The digital version/digital publication of the organisations having traditional news platforms (TV and print) may be following internal guidelines of the self-regulatory bodies.
“Accordingly, if the organisations so desire, they can request the same self-regulatory bodies to serve as the Level II of the self-regulatory mechanism, after ensuring consistency with the Digital Media Rules, 2021.
“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 programme 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.
“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.
The ministry also dismissed the concerns that the oversight mechanism stipulated under the digital media rules would lead to excessive government control over the functioning of the digital news publishers and the OTT platforms.
“In this regard, it may be mentioned that even at present, in respect of the traditional TV channels, there is an oversight mechanism in the government by way of an inter-ministerial committee (IMC), which looks at certain grievances relating to the violation of the Programme Code, a mechanism which is in existence since 2005,” it said.
In the overall context, the Digital Media Rules, 2021 may be complied with by the digital news publishers and the OTT platforms without any misapprehensions, it added.