Media

Centre's Moves to Regulate Content Could 'Inhibit' Digital News Companies: Digipub

The statement issued by the foundation says the Centre's notifications, court statements and proposals made in the past few months "will have a profound, lasting impact on the digital media sector".

New Delhi: Digipub, an organisation of digital-only news publications that aims to ensure the creation of a healthy and robust news ecosystem, has said the Centre’s moves over the past few months to regulate content and put in place a restrictive regulatory framework could “seriously inhibit its capacity to grow and realise the dream of a digital India with news media companies competing with the best in the world”.

The statement issued by the foundation, of which The Wire is a founding member, says the Centre’s notifications, court statements and proposals made in the past few months “will have a profound, lasting impact on the digital media sector”.

Among the suggestions that the Centre has made is to regulate content, to bring digital news publishers under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and limit foreign direct investment (FDI) for Indian digital news publishers.

“Despite being in its infancy, the digital news industry in India has done a remarkable job in keeping the nation informed on a variety of otherwise-hidden events and issues, thanks to many committed professionals, journalists and media entrepreneurs. A restrictive regulatory framework could seriously inhibit its capacity to grow and realise the dream of a digital India with news media companies competing with the best in the world,” the statement by Digipub says.

The government’s policy interventions and prescriptions “could seriously limit” the potential of Indian digital news outlets rather than provide a conducive growth environment, it says. “In addition, they would put Indian companies at a serious disadvantage to foreign news brands and disincentivise entrepreneurs from incorporating companies in India that could be a part of the India growth story,” the statement, signed by the foundation’s chairperson Dhanya Rajendran and general secretary Ritu Kapur, says.

The Centre should undertake a detailed consultation with all stakeholders, especially digital-only entities, Digipub said, adding that legacy media companies “cannot accurately and completely reflect digital aspirations and concerns”.

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Digipub said it is working on guidelines for conduct and self-regulatory rules, which the foundation would be happy to discuss with all stakeholders and welcomed suggestions.

“In the midst of a pandemic when economies, investments and jobs are faltering in India and around the world, such moves by the government are likely to do more harm than good. Restrictive policies could have serious consequences, including job losses,” the statement adds.

Requesting minister for information and broadcasting Prakash Javadekar for a hearing, Digipub said together, the Centre and stakeholders can create a framework that will be nurturing to the digital media economy as well as set high standards on journalism, while addressing other concerns. “Hastily issued policies rules could prove disastrous to India’s right to stay informed,” the statement concluded.

The full statement has been reproduced below.

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Digipub statement on GoI’s proposals on digital media in India:

The Central government has over the past few months issued notifications, stated in court and made proposals that will have a profound, lasting impact on the digital media sector. Digipub, an organisation of digital-only news publications, has the following statement on these moves.

These notices and interventions contain suggestions and proposals to regulate content, to bring digital news publishers under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and limit Foreign Direct Investment for Indian digital news publishers. A draft bill of the amended Press and Registration of Books Act (shared last year as a draft RPP Bill, Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019) has also been circulated.

Despite being in its infancy, the digital news industry in India has done a remarkable job in keeping the nation informed on a variety of otherwise-hidden events and issues, thanks to many committed professionals, journalists and media entrepreneurs. A restrictive regulatory framework could seriously inhibit its capacity to grow and realise the dream of a digital India with news media companies competing with the best in the world.

The government’s policy interventions and prescriptions could seriously limit that potential rather than provide a conducive growth environment to Indian companies and the Indian digital sector. In addition, they would put Indian companies at a serious disadvantage to foreign news brands and disincentivise entrepreneurs from incorporating companies in India that could be a part of the India growth story.

We urge the government of India to undertake a detailed consultation with all stake holders, especially digital-only entities that will bear the strongest impact of these policies. Legacy media companies cannot accurately and completely reflect digital aspirations and concerns.

With regards to content, Digipub is working on guidelines for conduct and self-regulatory rules that we would be happy to discuss with all stakeholders. We welcome suggestions on the guidelines.

In the midst of a pandemic when economies, investments and jobs are faltering in India and around the world, such moves by the government are likely to do more harm than good. Restrictive policies could have serious consequences, including job losses.

We urge the Minister for Information and Broadcasting to give us a hearing. We are confident that we can together create a framework that will be nurturing to the digital media economy as well as set high standards on journalism, while addressing other concerns.  Hastily issued policies rules could prove disastrous to India’s right to stay informed.

For DIGIPUB:
Dhanya Rajendran – Chairperson
Ritu Kapur- General Secy.
November 17, 2020.