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Traditional news media companies ‘welcome’ digital news regulations: Javadekar

Prakash Javadekar
Credit: Soumyarendra Barik

Minister of Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar met with the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) on Thursday, and said that they “welcomed” the new regulations on digital news companies. The DNPA is an industry body representing traditional media organisations like Dainik Bhaskar, NDTV, Times of India, Hindustan Times and Malayala Manorama, among others, all of whom who have a digital presence. “Everyone pointed out that these rules should not apply to news,” a meeting participant told MediaNama under condition of anonymity. All DNPA members were present at the meeting, the participant added. Javadekar did not mention the objection to the Rules being applicable to news in his tweet, but the I&B Ministry did in its press release later in the evening.

Jagran New Media CEO Bharat Gupta revealed that DNPA members asked for the rules to not apply to them alone, arguing they are largely reposting content that is already covered under laws applicable to traditional media. The DNPA thanked Javadekar in a tweet where it did not mention this demand:

Dhanya Rajendran, founder and editor-in-chief of The New Minute, who chairs the DIGIPub News India Foundation told MediaNama that there was no word yet from the I&B Ministry on whether it would meet with the digital publishers body.

Javadekar previously met with the Internet and Mobile Association of India, a body representing streaming platforms, after which he said that the organisation “welcomed” the regulations requiring them to submit to a three tier complaints redressal mechanism. In fact, during that meeting, Forbes India reported, streaming platforms asked for more time to comply, something that Javadekar refused to commit to; two of Forbes’s sources also disagreed with the assessment that industry representatives “welcomed” the new rules.

Earlier, the DNPA welcomed the limiting of Foreign Direct Investment in Digital Media to 26%, as their digital presence would no longer have to compete with digital-only organizations that were earlier able to procure FDI more easily. HuffPost had to shut down its India operations because of the change. DIGIPUB, which represents a several digital media organisations, criticised the new intermediary rules, effectively calling it an overreach of executive power.

Government’s press release on the meeting

Below is the text of the government’s press release on Javadekar’s meeting with the DNPA’s members:

Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Shri Prakash Javadekar interacts with representatives of Digital News Publishers

Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Shri Prakash Javadekar today held an interaction through Video Conference with representatives of Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) in the backdrop of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.  Representatives were from India Today, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Times of India, ABP, Eenadu, Dainik Jagran, Lokmat, etc.

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Addressing the participants, Shri Javadekar informed that the new rules placed certain responsibilities on digital news publishers.  These include adherence to Code of Ethics such as the norms of journalistic conduct framed by the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act.  Further to redress grievances of citizens the rules have provided for a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism of which the first and second tier would be of the digital news publishers and self-regulatory bodies constituted by them.  The digital news publishers would also be required to furnish some basic information to the Ministry in a simple form which is being finalised and periodically they would be required to place in public domain the grievance redressal undertaken by them.  He stated that print media and TV channels have digital versions whose content is almost the same as that on the traditional platforms.  However, there are contents which appear exclusively on the digital platform.This apart there are several entities which are only on the digital platform.  Accordingly, the rules seek to cover the news on Digital Media so as to bring them at par with the traditional media.

The participants while welcoming the new rules stated that TV and news print media have been following the laid down norms of the Cable Television Network Act and the Press Council Act for a very long time.  Further for publishing the digital versions the publishers do follow the existing norms of the traditional platforms.  They felt that they should be treated differently than those news publishers who are only on the digital platform.

Shri Javadekar thanked the participants for expressing their views and stated that the Government will take note of the same and continue with this consultative process for overall growth of the media industry.

Update (5:45pm): Updated with comment from DNPA meeting participant.

Update (March 12): Added press release, DNPA statement, and tweet by Bharat Gupta.

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