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The Government of India’s Press Information Bureau (PIB) is looking to rework guidelines for allowing online media journalists to get press accreditation. Among the benefits of being a PIB accredited journalist is that it allows journalists entry into government events (a list here) for reporting on them. Inputs may be sent to the PIB via this form by the 23rd of March 2016.

The questions raised by the PIB on who should be given accreditation points towards some interesting issues when it comes to recognizing online media. Among the questions, they’re asking whether news aggregators should also be given accreditation; means of identifying how much of the content from a media entity is original news content; whether these media entities are updated daily, and how that may be verified. A list of questions below.

Existing accreditation guidelines for online media

We’ve never noticed this before, but apparently there are guidelines for accreditation for online media, which the government is now looking to revise.

– Applicable to: online editors, correspondents, camerapersons
– What’s a news site: For a news site at least 1/3rd of its visible content related to news & current affairs originally reported by its own correspondents.
– Qualifying stats: The site should have paid subscribers and must be updated at least 6 times a day, and have at least 10,000 pageviews per day for its news portion.
– minimum annual revenue of either Rs 20 lakhs from its news portions only OR Rs 2.5 crore from the entire website including its news portion.
– The domain name of the site should be registered for at least the next 5 years from the date
of application, and the website must be functioning for at least a year.

More:
– detailed online media guidelines here.
– General media guidelines here

MediaNama’s Take

– On conditions for qualification: Minimum revenue criteria in case of online media is also not a great idea: I’m not sure whether something like The Wire might qualify given that it’s less than a year old, and many news publications don’t necessarily start monetization immediately. There could be publications like News Laundry which don’t operate on subscription or advertising, but on donations. These appear to be, as with many things government, rejection criteria instead of selection criteria, and the government should base these decisions on whether there is original news reportage, frequent updates, and whether there is sufficient readership.
– News and opinion: Given that the web is space where news is a commodity, and opinion is often what drives readership, why should the government keep out publications that are specifically about communities and curation of views?

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Questions being asked for updating these guidelines (fill out the form here by 23rd of March 2016):

– What in your view should be the criteria for empanelment of online media agencies (such as number of unique visitors, number of page views etc.)?
– What kind of analytical agency is capable of providing data regarding the criteria for empanelment?
Your answer
– What kind of entities should be covered under ‘online media’?
– What should be the minimum percentage of news content carried by such an entity? What should be the mechanism for this verification?
– What may be the mechanism to verify whether the entity has been functioning for the past one year before applying for accreditation?
– What may be the means to verify that the entity is updated regularly and on a daily basis?
– Should online aggregators of news be given accreditation? What may be the means to segregate aggregators of news from original content providers?

Corrigendum: we’d incorrectly interpreted some of the guidelines, and the MediaNama take has been edited to address the error. Our apologies