I&B ministry forms committee to frame rules for regulating online news

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has constituted a committee to frame rules to regulate news portals and media websites, according to an official order which came a day after the government withdrew its contentious guidelines on fake news following widespread criticism.

According to the order dated April 4, the 10-member committee includes secretaries of the ministries of information and broadcasting, electronics and information technology, and home. Besides, it will also have secretaries of department of legal affairs and department of industrial policy and promotion as it members.

The committee will also have representatives of the Press Council of India, News Broadcasters Association and Indian Broadcasters Federation.

The order said the content on private television channels are regulated by the Programme and Advertisement Codes, while the the Press Council of India (PCI) has its norms to regulate the print media.

It said there were no norms or guidelines to regulate the online media websites and news portals.

Therefore, it has been decided to constitute a committee to frame and suggest a regulatory framework for online media/news portals including digital broadcasting and entertainment/infotainment sites and news/media aggregators, it added.

Terms of the reference (TOR) or scope of the work include to delineate the sphere of online information dissemination which needs to be brought under regulation, on the lines applicable to print and electronic media", according to the order.

The committee will also analyse the international scenario on the existing of regulatory mechanism with a view to incorporate the best practices.

The committee will recommend appropriate policy formulation for online media/ news portal and online content platforms, keeping in mind various norms, including extent of FDI allowed, programmes and advertising code for TV channels and those of the PCI, the order said.

On April 2, the ministry had announced norms to contain fake news which said that if publication or telecast of fake news was confirmed, accreditation of the journalist would be suspended for six months in case of first violation and for one year in case of a second violation.

In case of a third violation, his or her accreditation would be cancelled permanently, the ministry had said.

However, the guidelines were withdrawn by the ministry on the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the government drew flak from media bodies and and opposition which dubbed these norms an attempt to "muzzle" free press.

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