NBA requests exclusion of online news platforms owned by traditional media from IT rules

In a letter to MIB, NBA explained that application of IT rules 2021 will lead to duplication of the adjudicatory & redressal mechanism resulting in the creation of parallel adjudicatory bodies

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 27, 2021 5:29 PM  | 4 min read

The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) - the apex body of broadcasters for the genre of news in the television broadcasting sector, on May 27, 2021, has written a letter to Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Government of India to and requests the exclusion of the digital news platforms that are owned and run by traditional news media from the purview of the provisions of the IT Rules, 2021. 

NBA urges that a specific and express exclusion should be carved out in the definitions of ‘digital news media’ and /or ‘publishers of news and current affairs content’ so as to exclude the applicability of the provisions of the IT Rules, 2021 to the digital news platforms that are owned and run by traditional news media. The need of the hour is to strengthen the already existing independent self-regulatory mechanism of NBSA and to give statutory

The letter attempts to apprise the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting 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 reads, “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 inter alia 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.”

“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,” read the letter. 

NBA also wrote that in any event, while the apex body of broadcasters 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. 

It also said that 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 organizations 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 organizations along with duplication and creation of parallel processes. The media organizations would have to devote significant resources and time in resolving each complaint and in defending itself 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,” letter read. 

The letter also mentioned that the IT Rules, 2021 has certain deficiencies, which are listed below as the said Rules ought not to:

 i. use terms like ‘half-truths’, ‘good taste’, ‘decency’ which are words that are vague and ambiguous;

Ii. enact excessive regulations for the digital medium in order that a level playing field be maintained with the traditional electronic news media; and 

iii. treat digital media as a ‘Social Media Intermediary’ or ‘Significant Social Media Intermediary

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