New Delhi: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has decided not to include regulations against paid news in newspapers and magazines in the proposed Press and Registration of Books and Periodicals (PRBP) Bill.
According to the Indian Express, the ministry decided that the PRBP was not the right legislation for paid new, because it only deals with title verification, registration and circulation verification of newspapers, books and periodicals. For rules about “content”, the Press Council Act (on standards of newspapers and news agencies) would have to be amended.
The draft Bill is awaiting I&B minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s clearance before being put before the cabinet. According to the newspaper, the Bill is likely to lapse since the 16th Lok Sabha will be dissolved in May next year.
While there are no laws on paid news at the moment, the Election Commission has certain guidelines in place to check the use of paid news before elections.
In August 2015, a parliamentary panel had asked the I&B ministry to prepare an appropriate policy so that paid news can be categorised as a punishable electoral offence, and empower the Press Council to act in cases of alleged paid news.
The draft Bill (now not likely to be passed in its current) put in place strict regulations around paid news, allowing punishments ranging from suspending a publication for 45 days to cancelling its registration.
Note: In an earlier version of this story, it was incorrectly stated that the I&B ministry did away with the Press and Registration of Books Act of 1867 in June 2017. The act remains in force; what the ministry decided was to drop the effort to include paid news within its ambit.