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Government lets another news publishers’ body regulate itself without revealing the criteria

The Kerala-focused IDPCGC joins three other self-regulatory bodies approved by the I&B Ministry.

We missed this earlier: The Indian Digital Publishers Content Grievance Council (IDPCGC) was approved in October 2021, as a level II self-regulatory body for publishers of news and current affairs content under the Information Technology (IT) Rules, 2021, as per a notification on the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting’s (MIB) website. The application was submitted by the Confederation of Online Media in August 2021, the document revealed.

The IT Rules, 2021 have laid down a Grievance Redressal Mechanism consisting of a three-tier structure for publishers of news and curated content.

  • Level I- Self-regulation by the publishers;
  • Level II- Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
  • Level III- Oversight mechanism by the Central Government

A self-regulatory body of publishers is supposed to be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, high court, or an eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, and human rights, among others. It can have another six members in the committee. Such a body will oversee whether the publisher adheres to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by publishers within a period of fifteen days.

It is important to understand which bodies have obtained approval from MIB as there is a lot of opacity around the criteria based on which the ministry grants its assent to these bodies. It is yet to release a list of reasons which it factors into its decision-making.

Who will be a part of the IDPCGC?

The IDPCGC will be headed by the former vice-chancellor of Calicut University Dr. K.K.N Kurup and comprise members such as: 

  • Dr. George Onakkur, former director of Kerala State Encyclopedia and former chairman of State Resource Center
  • James Joseph, former Higher Secondary Director (Kerala) and Kerala University Controller- Member
  • R. Gopikrishnan, Journalist
  • Vincent Joseph, President, Confederation Online Media (India) 
  • Abdul Mujeeb, Secretary, Confederation of Online Media (India)
  • K.K. Sreejith, Treasurer, Confederation of Online Media (India)

Which are the organisations affiliated with IDPCGC?

The government shared a list of 24 organisations, based mainly in Kerala, which fall within the purview of IDPCGC. They are:

  • expresskerala.com 
  • keralaonlinenews.com
  • bignewslive.com 
  • sathyamonline.com 
  • kasargodvartha.com 
  • kvartha.com 
  • truevisionnews.com
  • Gramajyothi.com 
  • Vyganews.com
  • marunadanmalayalee.com 
  • eastcoastdaily.in 
  • azhimukham.com 
  • malayalivartha.com 
  • metromatinee.com
  • financialviews.in 
  • www.marunadantv.com 
  • malayalilife.com 
  • Evartha.in
  • britishmalayali.co.u 
  • Moviemax.in
  • Nexttv.in localglob.com
  • bignewskerala.com 
  • Sharepost.media

SRBs that have been approved by the Ministry

There are only three SRBs that are listed on MIB’s website apart from IDPCGC:

  • Web Journalists’ Standards Authority
  • News Broadcasters Federation- Professional News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBF-PNBSA) 
  • Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council

What needs to be addressed by the I&B ministry? 

The I&B ministry must codify the parameters of the self-regulatory body as there are no clear guidelines to date. One of the questions which need to be clarified is if the decisions on complaints will be made by the panel of six, or is there a provision for forming sub-committees. MIB should also clarify the tenure for the members and the head of a self-regulatory body.

Navigating legal resistance

The ministry will also have to tackle the lawsuit brought by digital news organisations against the validity of IT Rules, 2021. The Bombay High Court has stayed provisions of the IT Rules that require digital news publishers to create a three-tier grievance mechanism and to observe a Code of Ethics. Operation of Rules 9(1) and 9(3) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, were stayed by the court.

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It meant that news organisations, for the interim, are not required to set up grievance redressal mechanisms as laid out in the Rules. The court reasoned that it finds the requirements to be beyond the scope of the Rules’ parent legislation, the Information Technology Act, 2000, and violate the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

The ruling was pronounced by Chief Justice GS Kulkarni in the matter of two PILs, AGIJ Promotion Of Nineteenonea Media Pvt Ltd & anr v. Union of India & anr, and Nikhil Wagle v. Union of India. A verdict is yet to be pronounced by the Bombay High Court. 

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I cover several beats such as crypto, telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I will be loitering at my local theatre and consuming movies by the dozen when I am off work.

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