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RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- REGULATING NEWS ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS

RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- REGULATING NEWS ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS

RSTV, RSTV FRANK, FRANK INSIGHTS

Introduction:                    

            The Information & Broadcasting Ministry has proposed to introduce a new set of regulations to replace the archaic Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867 that governs the registration of print and publishing industry in the country. Through the draft Registration of Press and Periodicals (RPP) Bill, 2019, the Ministry has proposed to bring digital media in the new registration regulations’ ambit, do away with prosecution provisions of imprisonment of publishers and to simplify implementation of the registration process through a newly-created Press Registrar General. It has therefore proposed to remove existing requirements of furnishing of declaration by publishers and printers before the District Magistrate and its subsequent authentication. The draft Bill states that, “publishers of news on digital media shall register themselves with the Registrar of Newspapers of India”. In addition, it is proposing a simple system of registration of e-papers. It defines news on digital media as the news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics.

 

Salient features of the draft “Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019”

  • The Bill proposes to remove the existing provisions relating to registration of Books and matters connected thereto.
  • The Bill proposes to do away with the existing procedure of furnishing of declaration by publishers/ printers before the District Magistrate and its subsequent authentication.
  • The process of title and registration of periodicals including newspapers is proposed to be effected centrally by the Press Registrar General as a simultaneous process.
  • The Bill enables the Central Government and the State Government to frame appropriate rules/ regulations to regulate the criteria/ conditions for issuing Government advertisements in newspapers, accreditation of newspapers and such other facilities for newspapers.
  • The Bill proposes to have a simple system of registration of e-papers.
  • The Bill proposes to do away with the earlier provision under the PRB Act, 1867 of prosecution of publishers.

 

Digital media:

  • The draft Bill states that publishers of news on digital media shall register themselves with the Registrar of Newspapers of India.
  • In addition, it is proposing a simple system of registration of e-papers.
  • It defines news on digital media as the news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics.
  • The Bill also enables the Central and the State governments to frame appropriate rules/ regulations to regulate the criteria/ conditions for issuing government advertisements in newspapers, accreditation of newspapers and other facilities for newspapers,” the Ministry stated in the draft bill

 

Registration of Books:

  • In another key amendment, the draft bill also proposes to remove the existing provisions relating to registration of Books.
  • In the draft bill, cancellation or suspension of registration norms now also include a provision that states that if the publisher has been convicted by any court for an offence, “ involving terrorist act or unlawful activity,” it may result in cancellation of registration.

 

The current act:

  • The current Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act 1867 was squarely aimed at curbing what the British Government thought was the role of the press in the “revolt of 1857”.
  • But it was clever in its enactment because it only pertained to presses in English. It was seen as being regulatory in nature because a more stringent act, the Vernacular Press Act of 1878, was waiting in the wings.
  • It is strange that since India got its freedom, the PRB of 1867 was never abandoned by successive governments.
  • It is evident that the act helped governments control the press, regulate book publishing and inadvertently curb the freedom of speech and expression. The act by itself appears to be fairly liberal and clearly designed to ‘help preserve news’. This is what is apparent from the introduction of the act which
  • With successive amendments, the act has been modified but its overall effect remains a problem in several quarters. Book publishing has not really been. While there have been stray cases of ambitious officers pursuing publishers, compliance has been simple.
  • It has been restricted to identifying the publisher by name, the press where the book is printed.
  • There is another critical provision – depositing copies with the National Libraries across the countries.

 

 

The impact on Journal Publishing in India

  • The provisions for registering and publishing periodicals, however, has had a direct and negative impact on Indian Higher Education publishing when one examines the publishing of Academic Peer Reviewed Journals.
  • These journals are not defined as carrying news or any sort of current affairs as envisioned and enshrined in the PRB Act (along with its various amendments). And yet all academic journals are subject to the same lengthy, bureaucratic process that is needed to approve a weekly or even a fortnightly NEWS magazine. The law, the lawmakers and the law enforcers don’t make any allowance for any distinction between academic journals and magazines.

 

Has the 1867 act outlined its utility?

  • There are huge changes in news industry and print media.
  • There has been entire electronic revolution, radio revolution and now digital revolution but we are continuing with the same act.
  • There has been expansion in digital news economy.

 

Need for regulations and way forward:

  • The speed and reach of social media has meant that subversive rumours and fake news get aired with impunity.
  • This has resulted in serious law and order problems.
  • In India, this phenomenon has assumed dangerous proportions. Fake news on WhatsApp has led to lynchings and communal flare-ups in many parts of the country. This menace needs to be curbed. 
  • It will bring level playing fields for all kinds of players.
  • It will give recognition to serious journalists and media houses.
  • There needs to be proper regulation, recognition and responsibility.

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