Ashwini Vaishnaw will have to hit the ground running at MIB
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3 days ago 06:00:10am Television

Ashwini Vaishnaw will have to hit the ground running at MIB

New Delhi,11-June-2024, By IBW Team

Ashwini Vaishnaw will have to hit the ground running at MIB

The new Information and Broadcasting Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw may not be completely out of place at his ministry as many of the issues must have been brought to his notice when he headed the Electronics and IT Ministry (Meity) in the last government.

However, at Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), which has been this time entrusted to him in addition to the Meity and the Railways Ministry, he would have to take a view on some ticklish policy matters, including the proposed National Broadcast Services Bill, panned by industry stakeholders as government overreach, and the direct-to-mobile technology that had been championed by the previous Minister, Anurag Thakur.

Will Vaishnaw have to hit the ground running at MIB? In some way, yes. Especially as the Health Ministry has again revived the proposal to have anti-tobacco messaging in content being carried on various OTT platforms, both Indian and international — a move that had MIB in the cross-hairs of government policy making process as the stakeholders had pushed back against such an unilateral move and MIB is the nodal government agency for the media and entertainment industry in India.

While Vaishnaw’s predecessor Thakur had harped on the marvels of a working self-regulatory regime — especially in the context of content regulations — he has had to talk tough at times on content termed ‘obscene’ and ‘contrary to Indian culture’. Industry would expect the new minister to spell out the government stand without impeding the thriving content segment in the country.

If at Meity, it was his deputy Rajeev Chandrasekhar who was seen to be interacting more with the media and the world in general, and doing a great job at it, at MIB Vaishnaw will clearly be put in the spotlight — almost always — unless he’d prefer his Minister of State, Dr. L. Murugan, to be his Chandrasekhar at MIB

Vaishnaw, who takes over the MIB baton from Thakur, inherits a sector that’s still struggling financially, witnesses sizable litigations, and has several uncertain and uncharted areas of policy-making.

Even as Vaishnaw will look to settle down at MIB’s Shastri Bhawan headquarters, his officials will be holding today a meeting of industry stakeholders, including platforms, broadcasters, tech giants and advertising industry representatives on an issue of self-declaration relating to advertisements on all media in the country — a proposed regulation that could cause huge logistical issues. Unless, of course, the scheduled meeting is postponed for another day.

However, to be fair to MIB, it’s an issue that has been lobbed in its court by a Supreme Court observation that has been hearing a case against a big home-grown FMCG company’s alleged misleading ads continuing to be released to the media despite early warnings.

And, of course, there’s the issue of pubcaster Prasar Bharati, its continuing modernisation and also stakeholder pushback against Doordarshan FreeDish, a satellite service that’s not regulated as other distribution platforms.

The industry’s argument: please level the playing field and bring FreeDish also under regulations that govern private sector DTH platforms and cable services. The chorus has been growing and it can play out during the finalisation of the Broadcast Services Bill, which is aimed to upgrade antiquated laws.

Meity Policy Momentum To Continue: Meanwhile, at Meity with Vaishnaw retaining Electronics, IT portfolio, where he has scripted success stories around electronics and semiconductor manufacturing and also spearheaded the enactment of crucial Digital Personal Data Protection Act, people expect the same momentum to continue, a PTI report from new Delhi stated.

An IIT Kanpur alumni, the bureaucrat-turned-politician has had an action-packed stint in the Modi 2.0 government and will need to build on the past momentum, which are crucial to make India’s electronic and IT sector ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliant) .

Mobile phone manufacturing during Vaishnaw’s tenure crossed Rs 4.1 lakh crore worth of production mark, which is a 21-fold jump in production level compared to that in 2014-15, when 98 per cent of local demand was met through imports. The country now meets 97 per cent of its total mobile phone demand locally.

Among the pending issues Vaishnaw would have to work out the enabling rules to implement Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act and also give shape to the proposed Digital India Act, which will supersede the over two decades old IT Act.

The DPDP Act was approved by Parliament in August last year after six years of the Supreme Court declaring ‘Right to Privacy’ as a fundamental right, and has provisions to curb the misuse of individuals’ data by online platforms.

The Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) has been working on the draft Digital India legislation that would provide guard rails and prescribe regulatory approaches for new-age technologies like artificial intelligence.

The proposed DIA would also be crucial as it seeks to provide safeguards against newer forms of cyber crimes, including deepfakes, catphishing, doxing, cyber trolling etc.

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