New Delhi: Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar Monday weighed in on the absence of self-regulation for OTT (over-the-top) platforms, expressing concern about some of the content streamed while emphasising that the government wants to stay out of regulating them.
Addressing a webinar on National Press Day, he noted that print media had a “self-regulation” body in the Press Council of India (PCI) — whose chief is appointed by the government but has representation from media organisations — while pointing out lacunae in regulation for OTT platforms and TV news channels.
Referring to streaming platforms, he said they have “no PCI kind of mechanism, nor is there self-regulation for them”. “There are good films on OTT platforms, ordinary films, bad films, and even very bad films on them,” he added.
The government, he said, is “deliberating on” the many suggestions it has received on what can be done with regard to “this challenge”. However, he added that the government does not want to step in, as he asked the media community to take initiative to set a standard for “responsible journalism and responsible freedom”.
“The government does not want to get into this. The government does not want to intervene and stop any freedom, but this is your responsibility. When the government is believing in you, you should set an example of responsible journalism and responsible freedom,” he said.
Earlier this month, all video streaming platforms and digital news websites were brought under the jurisdiction of the I&B ministry.
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‘Press freedom comes with responsibility’
Javadekar also referred to what he described as gaps in monitoring television news. He said there was the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA), chaired by former Supreme Court judge Justice A.K. Sikri, but noted that many channels are not members of the organisation under which it falls.
The NBSA implements the Code of Ethics & Broadcasting Standards, a voluntary framework drawn up by the Rajat Sharma-led News Broadcasters Association (NBA), and takes note of violations. The NBA has 26 news and current affairs broadcasters (comprising 77 news and current affairs channels) as members, but Republic TV, TV9 Bharatvarsh and about 46 regional broadcasters have formed another news association called the News Broadcasters Federation (NBF).
“They are not under any regulation and this can’t be the way,” he said of channels not under the NBA. “People are suggesting that the government should draft a common code of conduct for all channels. We haven’t decided on that but are deliberating on it.”
Javadekar cited the recent ‘TRP scam’ — which stems from allegations that certain channels manipulate viewership data to garner more ads — as an example of the government being forced to step into an area it had earlier left to regulation by the players involved.
“We have to interfere now. We have set up a panel… to look at how to end the possibility of TRP manipulation and a report is expected soon,” he said.
He was referring to a committee set up by the I&B ministry earlier this month to review the existing guidelines on television rating agencies.
Stating that he had experienced press censorship first hand, Javadekar recalled the time of Emergency in India when he said he had been imprisoned for 16 months. During Emergency, he said, police would visit newspaper offices and dictate editorial policy.
“Today, even if someone speaks from outside… the press shouts ‘how much pressure we are in’. That is why freedom of press is very important,” he said.
Earlier this year, global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked India among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index, 2020. The government has since said it is working to improve the ranking, and has set up an index monitoring cell for the purpose.
In September, India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf met top representatives of RSF to defend the country’s record with respect to freedom of press, saying the media openly criticised the government on many fronts.
Javadekar said press freedom is not without limits, adding that it comes with responsibility.
“It is a responsible freedom. It is important to do responsible journalism and not sensationalise. There is freedom to put your word across, but that should not come with selfish motives or to deliberately defame someone…” he said.
Also Read: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, digital news media brought under I&B ministry jurisdiction
Self regulation doesn’t work.
The contents are good and innovative, but in many cases have explicit sexuality. The sex scenes are found to be unnecessary. They are to be there because of the word taboo else there is no point in showing them.
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