Centre to bring online media under regulatory framework

NEW DELHI, DHNS: The Centre has begun a move to bring online news portals and infotainment sites under a regulatory framework.

The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry under Smriti Irani has set up a 10-member committee to formulate a regulatory framework for the online media.

The move comes close after the ministry issued a press release threatening cancellation of accreditation of journalists, who are found to be guilty of "disseminating or propagating" fake news.

The ministry, however, had to withdraw its statement the very next day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered it to do so, in wake of a massive outrage over the ministry's move to penalise journalists for running fake news.

While the Press Council of India (PCI) is the regulatory body for the print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and the Broadcast Content Complaint Council are the self regulatory bodies for news channels and entertainment channels respectively.

However, the online media have been unregulated in India, so far, even as the country witnesses a significant rise in the number of such websites.

"There is no norms or guidelines to regulate the online media and news portals including digital broadcasting. Hence, it has been decided to constitute a committee to frame and suggest a regulatory framework for online media/news portals including digital broadcasting and entertaining/infotainment sites/media aggregator," the ministry said in a notification on April 4.

The 10 member committee will comprise secretaries of the Union ministries of the electronics and information technology, home affairs, department of legal affairs, department of industrial policy and promotion.

Chief executive officer of mygov, a citizen engagement platform created by the government, representatives of the PCI, NBA and Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) are members of the committee. The secretary of the I&B ministry will function as the convenor of the 10-member panel.

As per the terms and reference of the committee, it will delineate the sphere of online information, "dissemination of which needs to be brought under the regulations on the lines applicable for the print and electronic media."

It will recommend appropriate policy formulation for online media, "keeping in mind the extant FDI (foreign direct investment) norms."

To come up with its regulations, the panel has been asked to analyse "the international scenario" on the existing regulatory mechanism for online media "with a view to incorporate the best practices."

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