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Is the I&B Ministry’s online content regulation committee dead?

In April, Amit Katoch, who heads the New Media Cell at the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, created a committee to regulate online content. That included both news and entertainment content. The committee mostly comprised bureaucrats — MyGov CEO Arvind Gupta being one of the only two members whose work directly involved the internet. It has been almost two months since that committee was officially formed, and it hasn’t met yet. Nor does it have any plan to. The I&B Ministry said so in response to an RTI application filed by MediaNama. Is the online content regulation committee dead?

Here’s the text of that RTI response:

Kindly refer to your RTI application […] on the above mentioned subject and to say that since the committee has not met yet and as of now, no schedule for future meeting has been finalized/decided, the information in respect of all the four points may be treated as NIL.

When that committee was constituted, Smriti Irani was the Minister for Information & Broadcasting. She has since been relieved of that portfolio, and the charge has been given to her deputy, Rajyavardhan Rathore, who also heads the Sports Ministry. Rathore, who has been friendly to the film industry, brushed away concerns of impending regulation and didn’t acknowledge the committee in his first press conference as Irani’s successor. He even advocated self-regulation as the best regulatory approach.

ReadNew I&B Minister takes softer tone on online content regulation, says online news should self-regulate

In the past, Rathore has said in response to parliamentary questions that the Ministry has no plans to regulate online content. Even under Irani, the I&B Ministry affirmed twice in response to RTI applications from MediaNama that there were no plans to regulate online content. This was before the constitution of the committee.

In an unsigned editorial, the industry publication IndianTelevision.com said that Rathore should just let the committee “die a natural death“. If the inactivity of the committee is any indication, that may be what is happening.

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