Reports of the ministry’s letter came a day after the Bombay High Court stayed provisions of the IT Rules requiring digital news publishers to submit to a grievance mechanism.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has written to industry bodies to nominate expert members who will be a part of the IT Rules-mandated Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) to regulate OTT platforms and digital news organisations, according to a report by Hindustan Times. While the Information Technology Rules 2021 mentions that ‘domain experts’ would be a part of the IDC, it does not specify how the experts will be selected.
The IT Rules require OTT platforms and digital news publishers to submit to a three-tiered grievance mechanism with the government at the top. Since the top body will consist of representatives from various ministries (besides experts), this could enable greater government control over streaming content and news media.
Who will be a part of the IDC?
Chairperson of the IDC: The IT rules specify that an officer ‘not below the rank of Joint Secretary’ at the MIB will be the chairman of this committee. According to the Hindustan Times report, this person will be Vikram Sahay who is the Joint Secretary at the MIB.
The HT report reveals that the IDC will have expert members from the following bodies-
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI): One member as an expert from the Media and Entertainment industry
Confederation of Indian Industries (CII): One member as an expert from the Media and Entertainment industry
Press Council of India: One member from the Press Council of India as an expert from the field of journalism
Bar Council of India: One member from the Bar Council of India as a legal expert
According to documents viewed by Hindustan Times, FICCI and CII have been invited by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) to send their nominations within 10 days. MediaNama has confirmed the same and learnt that the letter to the two bodies was sent over the Independence Day weekend (between 14th and 15th August).
Officials from various ministries like the MIB, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Ministry of External Affairs, and Ministry of Defence will also be a part of the IDC.
What is the three-tier grievance mechanism required by IT Rules?
- Level I – Self-regulation by the publishers
- Level II – Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers
- Level III – Oversight mechanism by the Central Government
On Saturday, the Bombay High Court in an interim order stayed these provisions of the IT Rules that require digital news publishers to create a three-tier grievance mechanism and to observe a Code of Ethics.
The Code of Ethics requires that online news publishers adhere to the following codes or norms:
(i) Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India under the Press Council Act, 1978;
(ii) Programme Code under section 5 of the Cable Television Networks Regulation) Act, 1995;
(iii) Content which is prohibited under any law for the time being in force shall not be published or transmitted.
Other legal challenges against IT Rules
The new IT Rules have been hotly contested since they came into effect in May 2021. The following petitions are being heard at various High Courts.
- Digital News Publishers Association & anr v. Union of India & anr: Madras High Court, Petition.
- TM Krishna v. Union of India & anr: Hearing scheduled for July 14. Petition.
- The News Broadcasters Association v. Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology: Kerala High Court, stay on coercive action granted.
- Foundation for Independent Journalism v. Union of India: Delhi High Court, Petition, interim stay refused twice.
- Live Law Media Private Limited & ors v. Union of India & anr: Kerala High Court, Petition, stay on coercive action granted.
- Sanjay Kumar Singh v. Union of India & ors: Delhi High Court, Petition, tagged with FIJ v. UoI.
- Quint Digital Media Limited & anr v. Union of India & anr: Delhi High Court, Petition, tagged with FIJ v. UoI.
- Press Trust of India v. Union of India & anr: Delhi High Court, Petition, tagged with FIJ v. UoI.
- 40 streaming platforms have submitted data to I&B Ministry under IT Rules
- MIB official: IT Rules complaints to be considered directly at IDC level
- Summary: Information Technology Rules 2021 and OTT streaming services
Updated 18th August, 10:30 am : Story was updated to include confirmations from CII.
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