Smriti Irani: Govt to form a new regulatory framework for online content

By NL Team

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Taking part in the News18 Rising India Summit in Delhi, Union minister for Information and Broadcasting said that the government is planning to put in place a regulatory framework for social media and online content.

According to Hindustan Times, the minister said a line of ethics and code of conduct had to be put in place to ensure that customers do not get affected by vested views in news, broadcasting and advertorial content. “That is something the ministry is considering in terms of putting it in those words that now reflect on broadcasting and advertorials, having a similar line on ethics or code of conduct in a free society that is incumbent upon the agencies to abide to,” she said at the summit.

Irani said just as there was a Press Council of India for newspapers — which was distinct from the government but still self-regulatory enough to awaken its own conscience — and a broadcasters’ association for TV, she was hopeful a similar body would emerge for social media, at least for news and entertainment content.

The Wire reported that Irani’s remarks were made in response to a question about the possibility of the government’s intervention to curb hate speech on social media.

TV18 political editor Marya Shakil noted that there is a “a lot of hate, abuse” on social media and asked the minister if she thought the “government can in any way intervene without really crossing its brief”.

I think it’s a balance and a very delicate one,” Irani replied, adding that while television, radio and newspapers had to adhere to a code, “online is an ecosystem where legislation in terms of news, legislation in terms of broadcast content material, is not very clear. That is something that the ministry is currently undertaking, and in conversations with stakeholders.”

According to Irani, the recent consolidation of three media units under the Bureau of Outreach Communication was the need of the hour and doing away with such “silos” was the only option left.

On Wednesday, three separate departments, namely, the Directorate of Film Publicity (DFP), Song and Drama Division (S&DD) and the Directorate of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) were officially integrated into a singular unit and will henceforth operate from under the banner of Bureau of Outreach Communication (BOC) as per the new structure, reported Live Mint.

“BOC—a framework designed to ensure Government’s engagement reaches every state and every district of the country; a reformative step in taking Government communication beyond National Capital,” Irani tweeted on Wednesday.

The ministry is already in talks with the stakeholders concerned, Irani added.