Mainstream media houses must comply with new IT rules, I&B ministry refuses exemption

The I&B (Information and Broadcasting) Ministry on Thursday refused to grant an exception to digital content of mainstream TV channels and print media from the new IT Rules,2021. The government has also asked them to urgently comply with the new rules governing digital media sites. The clarification has come in response to NBA’s request to “exempt and exclude” TV media and its digital platforms from the new rules formulated in February 2021.

The central government had in February 2021 changed the rules governing social media intermediaries and digital media by bringing the ‘Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021’. The National Broadcaster’s Association (NBA) had then written to the government to exempt the traditional TV broadcasters from the new rules arguing that they were already adequately regulated in the form of various statutes, guidelines, codes and regulations, and laws.

However, according to the I&B ministry, granting an exemption to the traditional media from the new IT rules would be discriminatory towards digital media platforms that do not have a presence in TV or print.

The ministry refuted the allegations of additional regulatory burden citing that “the code of ethics requires such digital platforms to follow the exiting norms/ content regulations, which are in vogue for the traditional print and TV media.”

In a clarification written to digital news publishers, OTT platforms and their associations, the ministry did acknowledge that TV and print media were registered under the Press and Registration Books Act or the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines.

The clarification noted that digital publications of traditional media houses may already be following internal guidelines of self-regulatory bodies. “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,” it added.

The I&B ministry further specified that the composition of the self-regulatory body would be decided by publishers and the government would have no role to play in the process.

The ministry concluded by asking all publishers to immediately appoint a grievance officer, submit the details required to the government and form self-regulatory bodies in order to comply with the new IT rules.

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