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MIB moves to regulate online media: various organisations join issue

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NEW DELHI: Even as a debate on the need to regulate online news media gains momentum, various organisations have moved the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) hoping to be made a part of the committee that will look into various aspects of proposed regulations—a panel that surprisingly doesn’t include, at present, any representation from the sector that is being sought to be brought under checks.

According to media industry sources, Broadband India Forum (BIF), chambers of commerce FICCI and Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Internet and Mobile Association of India and Hong Kong-based Asian media advocacy group CASBAA are amongst some of the organisations that have sought representation on the government panel to add value to the policy-making process. The MIB secretary is the convener of the nine-member panel at present.

In an order issued in the first week of April this year, MIB had announced constitution of a committee for framing regulations for online media, news portals and online content, which would look not only look into the areas mentioned but also at digital broadcasting, entertainment and other media aggregators. The government justification has been that considering the print and electronic medium were governed by various government-mandated rules and also self-regulatory policies, online media (both news and entertainment) ought also to be brought under a similar regulatory framework.

Though it’s not spelt out in so many words, industry observers feel that despite broadcast carriage regulator TRAI keeping away from it for the time being, video OTT and social media platforms could be brought under the proposed regulatory framework.

The panel, despite some representation from overall media industry (Indian Broadcasting Foundation, News Broadcasters Association of India and Press Council of India), looks dominated by the government at the moment with members including secretaries from the Ministry of Electronics & IT, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Commerce, apart from the CEO of another government organisation called MyGov.com. What raises some hope is that the convener can add representatives from any other organisation as deemed fit.

Meanwhile, the Press Trust of India on Monday reported that the Congress attacked the Modi government over its proposal to install a chip in television set-top boxes to ascertain viewership data, dubbing the move a serious breach of privacy and the "next stage of surveillance."

Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala alleged that I&B minister Smriti Irani wanted to now know about shows people watched within the four walls of their bedrooms. In a Twitter post, Surjewala referred to the Modi government as "surveillance sarkar" (surveillance government), raising questions over the right to privacy.

"In a serious breach of privacy, Smriti Iraniji wants to know what show you watch on your TV, within the four walls of your bedroom, without your permission! Why? 'Ab ki baar Surveillance sarkar'. The right to privacy broken into pieces," PTI quoted the Surjewala tweets as stating.

Within its lengthy views on the DTH sector, the MIB had proposed installing a chip in new set-top boxes that would provide data about channels watched and the duration of the viewing. A senior official of the ministry, according to the PTI report, said that the move was aimed at getting "more authentic" viewership figures for every channel that would “help advertisers and the DAVP (government’s media buying agency) to spend their advertising expenditure wisely.”

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MIB forms committee to draft online media norms

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