The Law Commission of India, as a part of a process looking into the laws pertaining to the governance of media in India, is also taking a look issues related to Social media and privacy, apart from cross media ownership, paid news, fake sting operations, trial by media and regulation of government owned media.

You may download the consultation paper here, and submit your views to lci-dla@nic.in. The paper was released around the 20th of May, so you should get yor submissions in latest by the 10th of June.

Once ready, MediaNama will publish its submission to the Law Commission, for your reference. We had submitted our views to the Standing Committee on IT on the issue of Paid News (download), which you can refer to here.

Questions that the Law Commission is looking into:

A. Social Media and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000:

1. Should the existing law be amended to define what constitutes “objectionable content”?
2. Should Section 66A of the IT Act be retained in its present form or should it be modified/ repealed?
3. Is there a need for a regulatory authority with powers to ban/suspend coverage of objectionable material? If yes, should the regulatory authority be self-regulatory or should it have statutory powers?

B. Cross Media Ownership

1. Is there a current need for restrictions on cross control/ownership across the media sector? If so, what shape should such restrictions take?
2. Are mergers and acquisitions guidelines necessary for the sector to regulate concentration of media ownership? If so, what are the key factors such regulations must capture?
3. Do mandatory disclosure norms need to be imposed on media entities?
4. Should certain categories of entities be restricted from entering into broadcasting activities?

C. Media and Individual Privacy

1. Should a statutory body have powers to adjudicate complaints of false sting operations? Should there be a specific statutory provision for treating false sting operations as a punishable offence?
2. Should the existing framework of laws be suitably amended to include specific guidelines governing disclosure of private information by the press?
3. Is there a need for detailed guidelines on reporting of sub judice matters?
4. Is the current definition of “Identifiable larger public interest” under the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 comprehensive?

D. Regulation of the Media
1. Do the existing self-regulation mechanisms require strengthening? If so, how can they be strengthened?

2. In the alternative should a statutory regulator be contemplated? If so, how can the independence of such regulator be guaranteed? Specifically:

  1. How should members of such regulator be appointed?
  2. What should the eligibility conditions of such members be?
  3. What should their terms of service be?
  4. How should they be removed?
  5. What should their powers be?
  6. What consequences will ensue if their decisions are not complied with?

3. Should any such change be uniform across all types of media or should regulators be medium-specific?

E. Paid News
1. Should paid news be included as an election offence under the Representation of the People Act, 1951? How should it be defined?
2. What enforcement mechanisms should be put in place to monitor and restrict the proliferation of paid news?

F. Opinion Polls
1. Do opinion polls require any kind of regulation? If so, what kind?
2. What are the reasons for seeking such regulation, if any?
3. Will such regulation be constitutionally valid?

G. Trial by Media and Rights of the Accused

1. What form of regulation, if at all, is required to restrict media reporting of sub-judice matters?
2. Should the application of postponement orders be narrowed down by introducing guidelines/parameters such as kinds of publications to be covered, categories of proceedings which may be covered?
3. If some form of media regulation is required in reporting of matters which are sub-judice, should the same be in the form of a self-regulated media or should the Courts apply the present law of contempt to check such prejudicial publications?

H. Defamation
1. Should there be modifications in the law of civil and criminal defamation as it applies to journalists? If so, what should these modifications be?

I. Publications and Contempt of Court

1. What are the further legislative or Constitutional amendments necessary to the law on contempt of court to ensure freedom of the press?
2. Should scandalising or tending to scandalise the Court continue as a ground for contempt of court?

J. Regulations surrounding government owned media
1. What regulations can be introduced to ensure independence of government-owned media?
2. How should such regulations be enforced?

Note that the freedom of the press, while not recognised as a separate freedom under Fundamental Rights, is covered by the freedom of speech and expression. However, though the need for “registration” of media businesses, control over FDI spends, and media dependence on DAVP spends (now online as well), offers the government some strings to pull when needed. This consultation process by the Law Commission could be used as justification for changes in law in the future, so do submit your answers.

Our previous submissions

– On Paid News, to the Standing Committee on IT (download)
– On FDI in Ecommerce, to the DIPP (download)
– Mobile VAS, to the TRAI (view)