Video Summary

[RSTV The Big Picture] Regulating News on Digital Platforms

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has proposed to introduce new set of regulations to replace the archaic Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867 that governs a registration of Print and Publishing industry in the country.
By IT's Video Summary Team
December 18, 2019


  • Introduction
  • What does the new draft law propose?
  • Has Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867 outlived its utility?
  • Is there a need to have a 150 years old law?
  • Why is there a need to regulate news on Digital Platforms?
  • What kind of regulation is required for regulating digital platforms?
  • How social media platforms and digital news websites be controlled?
  • Current mechanism to track online content/news
  • Need to regulate news on Digital Platforms
  • Is there any current mechanism to track online content/news?
  • Should the draft bill address the paid news and fake news issues?
  • Is government’s trying to control digital platform with the draft law?
  • Way forward

[RSTV The Big Picture] Regulating News on Digital Platforms

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Through the draft Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has proposed to bring Digital media into the new regulations ambit to do away with the provision of imprisonment of publishers and to simplify the implementation of the registration process through a newly created Press Registrar General.

What does the new draft law propose?

  • It has proposed to remove existing requirements of furnishing of declaration by the publishers and printers before the District Magistrate and its subsequent authentication.
  • The Draft Bill states that publishers of news on digital media shall register themselves with the Registrar of newspapers of India. It does away with the cumbersome process of applying for the registration.
  • In addition, it is proposing a simple system of registration of e-papers.
  • It defines news on digital media as the news in digitized format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics.
  • It’s also proposes a cancellation of registration if the owner or promoter of a website is convicted in a case involving terrorist activity or other serious offence. It is to show that even though there must be proliferation of the new websites, at the same time, there has to be a check on their work.

Has Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867 outlived its utility?

  • Since 1867, though the changes occurred in the field of news, both in print and electronic media, they are all governed this old and archaic Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867.
  • The consumption of news among people and especially in younger generation is more in digital format nowadays. Therefore, the question arises that why the law of 1867 will govern the new set of new and media when there is a change in the dissemination of new and information in the country.
  • That is why, certainly there is a ‘rethink’ needed for the entire legal framework governing the news and publishing media of India.
  • Considering that every small town of the country has its own news portal which provide much more news than any other format, we certainly need to bring in some kind of digital regulation.

Is there a need to have a 150 years old law?

  • The Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867 is an archaic law.
  • After the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, these kind of acts were enacted to curb the nationalist movement.
  • It’s some of the provisions like the need to go to District Magistrates or prison for wrong publishing, should have been done away with but still present in the law.
  • The current government which is keen on encouraging digital economy, digital news dissemination and other digital platforms, the new bill is taking fresh look of all these.
  • With the expansion of Digital News Economy, there is certainly the need to replace this 150-year-old law with a new and fresh rules.

Why is there a need to regulate news on Digital Platforms?

  • This will bring level playing field for all kinds of digital players running independent news digital organizations.
  • This will also provide a kind of credence that the digital platforms of all shapes and sizes.
  • The independent journalism will get recognition not only by the government but various other arms of the government at state and central level.
  • It will be able to bring some kind of difference between serious and no serious news provider.

What kind of regulation is required for regulating digital platforms?

  • India has the regulating framework for Print Media, licensing process for electronic media but there is no formal system for digital media.
  • When it comes to digital content, there has to be some kind of recognition and that recognition comes through registration. Therefore, the draft is a way towards that kind of recognition for the digital media.
  • As of now, there is no direct binding law for the digital news and other kinds of news sharing is concerned. There is no responsibility and credibility involved for the publishers regarding the digital news content.
  • According to the draft law, there will be registration, recognition as well as responsibility will be involved for the digital news publishing.

Need to regulate news on Digital Platforms?

  • India has IT Act and guidelines to for the kind of content to be published by the websites but there is lack of concrete framework for digital content.
  • When it comes to social media platforms, it becomes very difficult to regulate the content as the source is undefined. The news disseminated by the WhatsApp of Facebook could be cross checked by the digital content of the registered website.
  • Therefore, the registration process has to be simplified in compliance with the changing norms of the digital world and with that there has to be more vibrant news creation culture which is present in India but doesn’t have any recognition

Is there any current mechanism to track online content/news?

  • There is no mechanism present concerned to the tracking online content. A person is absolutely free to write whatever he/she likes.
  • The draft bill/law will bring an answerability, accountability for people who post the content online and the provisions will deter the person to not to share any content which unfair, erroneous or causing any hurt.
  • The websites do not come up with any kind of legacy. Anyone without knowledge, degree or experience can start a website. For these kind of cases, the draft law will bring some kind of fairness for people who are really serious about journalism and fair news content.
  • The Electronic and Print media do not publish any fake and irrelevant news items but when it comes to digital media then it’s full of nuisance and fake news/information. Therefore, the daft law will bring in some kind of regulation for these kind of problems.
  • The draft law will give serious recognition to professional who are running their websites with serious journalism principles and rules.
  • The best part of the draft law is a person can directly apply to the Central government agency surpassing the district and state level authorities. Therefore, it will also remove unnecessary bureaucratic rules which currently wield enormous power over the digital content publication.

Should the draft bill address the paid news and fake news issues?

  • The paid news is often dealt by the Election Commission and is a feature that is one tends to crop up during the election period.
  • Controlling fake news is a big issue. Its monitoring is unmanageable and to difficult. The draft law will ensure the quality content on the digital platforms.
  • The law will give official access to government websites to web journalist which are easily accessible by the print media and its journalists.
  • The other issue of fake news will have to be dealt within the IT Act with greater monitoring system.

Is government’s trying to control digital platform with the draft law?

  • No, it is not the case. The government is trying to create a level playing field for the serious digital journalism along with the Print and Electronic journalism.
  • Lots of independent media organization are not having recognition by either the central government or state government.
  • There is also the issue of piracy of the content which will, probably, be stopped by this kind of law.
  • The digital media does not get the credibility for the government or other advertisement as they are not registered.

Way forward

The draft law should be welcomed as it will improve the quality of the digital content. Recently a reports said that 68% of the news consumption is happening over smart phones and only 18% out of that are consuming news from the original source. It is a good beginning to take into account the current realities of digital world where the younger readers are shifting like never before. This draft law is an encouragement to professional digital journalism.

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