Digital Media Ethics Code will make publishers accountable: I&B Jt Secy Vikram Sahay

Sahay said it should be viewed as a 'citizen-centric legislation'

New Delhi: As the government’s stand-off with a few social media companies continues over the new IT rules, ministry of information and broadcasting joint secretary Vikram Sahay said that Digital Media Ethics Code is aimed at addressing the grievances of the common man, and should be viewed as a ‘citizen-centric legislation’.

“Digital Media Ethics Code is aimed at stopping transmission of content which is objectionable to women or harmful to children. Presence of a regulatory body can control and stop the spread of fake news as well as make the publishers accountable. It is essentially citizen-centric legislation,” he said on Tuesday.

The MIB joint secretary was speaking at a webinar on ‘Digital Media Ethics Code’ organised by Press Information Bureau, Maharashtra and Goa for improving stakeholder understanding of Part III of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, that came into effect on 26 May.

India is the world’s fastest growing OTT market and the market is expected to reach $2.9 billion by 2024 which is an annual growth of 28.6 per cent. Sahay said the new rules become all the more important, amid this recent explosion of digital content. “The purpose of the Digital Media Ethics Code is to stop transmission of content which is objectionable to women or harmful to children,” he added.

Elaborating on how the online news portals are the major source of news among Indians under 35 years of age and that there is a 41 per cent increase in time spent on such news apps, Sahay said, “When there are content regulators like Press Council of India for newspapers and Cable TV Network Act, 1995 for News on TV there has been no such regulation for news on digital platforms. Similar is the case for OTTs which do not have a regulation unlike that of Cinema Halls or Television.”

The new rules notified on 25 February, came into effect on 26 May recommend a three-tier mechanism for the regulation of all online media. According to the new IT Rules, social media and streaming companies will be required to take down contentious content quicker, appoint grievance redressal officers and assist in investigations. The rules also seek to regulate the functioning of online media portals and publishers, over-the-top (OTT) platforms and social media intermediaries.

“There will be an inter-departmental committee to deal with unresolved complaints by news publishers or regulatory bodies and for that it is imperative that disclosure of information in public domain regarding grievance redressal by publisher and self-regulating body is done,” said the joint secretary.

Sahay also added that the I & B ministry will collect basic information about people working on news portals or OTT platforms, in a prescribed format by the stakeholders. “More than 1800 of people working on news portals or OTT platforms have already submitted their details to the ministry, where most of them have submitted voluntarily,” he added.

Digital news publishers, representatives of film industry, Over the Top (OTT) platforms and online content producers attended the webinar, along with academicians, researchers, students and officers of state government of Maharashtra and Goa.

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