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IT Rules 2021: Centre Refuses To Exempt Mainstream Media From Digital Norms,

Making any exception of the nature proposed will be discriminatory to the digital news publishers who do not have a traditional TV/print platform, the I&B ministry wrote.

New Delhi: The central government has refused to exempt mainstream media, including print and electronic portals, from the provisions of IT Rules, 2021. It has asked media platforms to will have to comply with the provisions with immediate effect.

Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) stated that that the rationale for bringing the websites of the organisations under the ambit of the law is “well-reasoned”.

“Making any exception of the nature proposed will be discriminatory to the digital news publishers who do not have a traditional TV/print platform,” the ministry wrote in a clarification to digital news publishers, publishers of online curated content or OTT platforms, and associations of digital media publishers.

Previously, the National Broadcasters Association (NBA) had written to the I&B ministry urging it to “exempt and exclude” the traditional television news media and its extended presence on digital news platforms from the purview of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, contending that the channels are already “sufficiently regulated” by various statutes, laws, guidelines and codes.

Responding to this, the Ministry stated that there is no additional regulatory burden for such entities and hence, the request for exemption from digital media rules 2021 cannot be acceded to.

“It does recognise that entities having traditional TV and print media are already registered with the government either under the Press and Registration Books Act or the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines of 2011. The digital version/digital publication of the organisations having traditional news platforms (TV and print) may be following internal guidelines of the self-regulatory bodies. Accordingly, if the organisations so desire, they can request the same self-regulatory bodies to serve as the Level II of the self-regulatory mechanism, after ensuring consistency with the Digital Media Rules, 2021,” the Ministry wrote.

The Ministry also clarified that when any news and current affairs content of a digital news publisher is transmitted on an OTT platform, such content would be outside the regulatory responsibility of that platform.

“However, if any OTT platform receives a grievance related to such news and current affairs, it may transfer the same to the publisher concerned of that content. Accordingly, there should not be any apprehension on this count either to the digital news publishers or to the OTT platforms,” it informed.

The ministry noted that the television news channels already have a self-regulatory mechanism in place to adjudicate grievances relating to the violation of the programme code under the Cable Television Network Act, 1995, and their internal codes or guidelines.

“The requirement of Level II under the Digital Media Rules, 2021 is only an extension of an existing institutional practice. Further, the composition of the self-regulating body would be decided entirely by the publishers and the government has no role to play,” the ministry said.

“It is neither stipulated nor intended for the government to either interfere or obstruct the formation of the self-regulating body including its composition,” it added.

The ministry also rubbished the concerns that the oversight mechanism stipulated under the digital media rules would lead to excessive government control over the functioning of the digital news publishers and the OTT platforms.

“Further, Level III is visualised as a residual level, in so far as the grievances which do not get addressed at the first and second levels would go to the IDC. Accordingly, the apprehension of excessive government control through these mechanisms is misplaced,” said the Ministry.

In the overall context, the Digital Media Rules, 2021 may be complied with by the digital news publishers and the OTT platforms without any misapprehensions, it added.

The Ministry further directed that the publishers may furnish the requisite information in the prescribed format immediately, take urgent steps for appointing a grievance officer, if not done, and place all relevant details in the public domain, constitute self-regulatory bodies through mutual consultation so that the grievances are addressed at the level of publishers or the self-regulating bodies themselves.

It further added that over 500 publishers have already submitted their details in the requisite format.

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