India’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said he has noted the suggestions put forward by the Digital News Publishers’ Association (DNPA) after holding a meeting with them in the backdrop of new digital media rules that were notified late February.
The minister said he held an interaction through video-conference with the representatives of the DNPA, including representatives from India Today, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Times of India, ABP, Eenadu, Dainik Jagran and Lokmat, in the backdrop of the IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 that also clubs the digital news publishers with the social media and OTT platforms.
“In a follow-up to meeting with OTT platforms, held an interaction with Digital News Publishers Association today. Discussed the new rules for digital media. They welcomed the new rules and offered few suggestions which I have noted,” PTI quoted from a Minister’s tweet.
DNPA, incidentally, was formed in 2018 and the ten founding members of the association were all legacy media companies that had digital businesses too. The founding members comprised the India Today Group, Dainik Bhaskar, NDTV, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Times of India, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Eenadu and Malayala Manorama.
DNPA, which is a is self-funded body with contributions from every publishing house at a nominal joining fee, did say at the start that it was open to any online news publisher to be part of it. According to a report on the India Today website in October 2020, DNPA had voluntarily drawn up a Code of Ethics for its members that “demonstrates their commitment to responsible digital publishing”.
DNPA thanks the Minister for today’s constructive meet. DNPA made suggestions that preserve freedom of the press and emphasized that all its members are bound by – and follow – the regulations of Press Council of India and/or NBSA.
— Digital News Publishers Association (@publishers_news) March 11, 2021
It’s not clear whether other digital news publishers, apart from the founding companies, are part of DNPA, though in recent times a few other similar bodies were announced claiming to represent the smaller digital news websites. One of them is DigiPub News India Foundation.
Addressing the participants from DNPA virtually, Javadekar informed them that the new rules placed certain responsibilities on digital news publishers.
Thank you Shri. @PrakashJavdekar Ji for extending us the time. The unanimous demand of the entire DNPA members on the virtual call with your good self today was to exclude the digital news sites/ arms of the traditional news media. We look forward to your support @JagranNews https://t.co/z9GKw9A4K3
— Bharat Gupta (@bharatgupta76) March 11, 2021
“These include adherence to a code of ethics such as the norms of journalistic conduct framed by the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Network Act.
“Further, to redress grievances of citizens, the rules have provided for a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism, of which the first and second tier would be of the digital news publishers and self-regulatory bodies constituted by them,” he was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, PTI said.
Incidentally, while DNPA tweeted from its newly opened Twitter account that it appreciated the “constructive meet”, it did also emphasise that it had made suggestions to “preserve freedom of the press” and that DNPA members already followed the Press Council and News Broadcasters Association’s self-regulatory guidelines.
Bharat Gupta of the Jagran New Media (digital arm of Jagran Prakashan Ltd), in a tweet, said, “The unanimous demand of the entire DNPA members…was to exclude the digital news sites/arms of traditional news media (from the new digital rules).”
According to the new rules, digital news publishers would also be required to furnish some basic information to the ministry in a simple form, which is being finalised, and periodically, they would be required to place the details of the grievance redressal measures undertaken by them in the public domain.
Javadekar said the print media as well as television channels have a digital presence, where the content is almost the same as that on the traditional platforms.
“However, there are contents which appear exclusively on the digital platform. This apart, there are several entities, which are only on the digital platform. Accordingly, the rules seek to cover the news on digital media so as to bring them at par with the traditional media,” he said, according to a PTI report.
The government statement put out said that during the meeting the DNPA members stated for publishing the digital content, the publishers follow the existing norms of the traditional platforms and felt that it should be treated differently than those news publishers who are only on a digital platform.