New Delhi: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) is framing a media and communication policy to ensure that the government’s messages “effectively” reach the target audience, and to also deal with the challenges of fake news.
This is the first time such a framework is being drawn up by the government, which is in line with its persistent focus on making its communication with the masses more effective.
A focus will also be on social media to connect to more people, ThePrint has learnt.
The previous Modi government had introduced a few new and innovative communication measures such as the PM’s monthly radio address ‘Mann Ki Baat’, but there wasn’t any proper media or communication policy in place.
Draft policy gives priority to social media
A committee of the I&B ministry has been working on the policy for the last few months and has held several meetings. Sources in the government said the draft policy — which had featured in the 100-day plan of the ministry — is ready and awaiting clearance from I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar.
Sources said the draft policy underlines the need to make the government’s communication strategies more citizen-centric, and feedback-centric too. This means the medium of the communication would be chosen on the media-consumption habits of the targeted audience to ensure that the government’s message not just reaches the right people, but is also understood.
The policy also focuses on ensuring that there is a multimedia approach to the message put out by the government.
Government sources said the draft policy has stressed on ‘digital-first’ communication and on using social media to reach out to people and connect with them as it is fast and inexpensive as compared to the print and visual media. The policy has also stated that any communication by civil servants should be neutral.
What does the draft policy say?
Senior government officials privy to the development said the draft policy requires all government bodies to produce annual and consolidated communication plans on dedicated themes, while also stating how effectively they could be converted into campaigns across media.
Monitoring the impact of such communication campaigns on people would be an equally important part of the communication plan, according to the policy.
The policy also states that the messages, which the government wants to send out to the public through media, need to be well-packaged and targeted at specific groups.
Besides, the draft policy entails drawing up a Standard Operating Procedure, which relevant government agencies would follow during a crisis situation, adequate training for government officials and grassroot-level communication.
All central government bodies would have to follow the guidelines as laid down in the draft policy, with a few exceptions such as the Election Commission of India and Comptroller and Auditor General, among others.
A senior government official, who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint that the means of communication have changed drastically over the years and, hence, the government felt the need to streamline its communication strategies to make sure that its message reaches the right audience and is more effective.
“Effective communication is being given utmost importance in the current government. But despite that there are challenges like fake news and an unregulated online media. There is no standard framework (at present) on which government communication can hinge on,” the official said.
“The current communication infrastructure is not capable of dealing with the increasing challenges. The new policy will touch upon those points,” the official added.
Cabinet press briefs have improved since 2017
The government’s focus on ensuring that its message is reaching the target audience effectively was evident when the cabinet secretariat directed all ministries in 2017 to ensure that they put forth a detailed communication plan, along with a cabinet note and press brief to ensure better publicity of cabinet decisions.
The communication plan was to include adequate publicity of cabinet decisions and their impact on people. This apart, publishing opinion pieces in leading dailies on cabinet decisions stating how they would benefit the masses, sending out personalised messages such as video as well as WhatsApp messages and e-mails with graphics were also supposed to be incorporated in the plan.
Since 2017, cabinet press briefs have undergone a sea change. Previously, a press brief on a cabinet decision briefly stated what it meant, but now a cabinet press release is a much more detailed one, which includes the context of the decision and lists out its benefits in greater detail.