The government may introduce the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2022 in Parliament soon.
The bill, which proposes mandatory registration of digital media, will replace the old Press and Registration of Books (PRB) Act, 1867.
If the new bill is passed by the Parliament, then digital news media will also come on par with the print media and will be required to register with the Press Registrar General.
Commenting on what the bill has in store for digital news platforms, Digital News Publishers Association’s (DNPA’s), Secretary General, Sujata Gupta said, “We don't know the contours of said bill as yet. But, if any additional measure or new provision is brought to regulate or monitor the digital editions of already monitored Indian-owned traditional print and electronic media houses, it would amount to double regulation.”
“Double regulation would be against the Prime Minister’s vision of ease of doing business and will neither be in national interest nor in the interest of any media industry represented by DNPA,” she added.
While DNPA has applauded the Centre’s efforts for deepening the digital outreach and governance in the country, it is also looking forward to having a deeper and renewed dialogue or consultation with the government. “If the bill is being brought in, this dialogue with the media stakeholders will be beneficial for everyone in the Parliament,” said Gupta.
In 2019, the Centre circulated a draft Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill. Defining “news on digital media” as the news in a digitised format that could be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and included text, audio, video and graphics, it proposed registration of the digital media news publishers with the Registrar of Newspapers of India.
The proposed legislation will bring digital news media under the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Once the Bill gets the Parliament’s nod, digital media houses will have to register with the Press Registrar General within 90 days. The government entity will have the power to act against digital publications for violations and can suspend or cancel registrations and impose penalties.
Apart from the proposed registration of digital media, what has made headlines several times now is the constant rift between Google and news publishers due to unfair and opaque sharing of revenue by the tech giant.
In January 2022, DNPA approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for ordering a probe into Google as it denied fair advertising revenue to the news publishers. The CCI had then ordered an investigation into the digital behemoth.
It was in March that the Director General of the investigation wing of CCI had to file the report on the probe, but since INS had also approached CCI for the same issue, the authority had clubbed the two complaints.
As of now, there has been no significant development over the complaint and it is still being discussed by the concerned authorities. Gupta further stated, “We comply with the instructions of CCI as required.”
“DNPA is not against the presence or growth of Google or Big Tech. In fact, we all work with them. But our main issue with them is only about fair distribution of revenue and that too for the ads that come on traffic on our content,” she clarified.
She also emphasised that India is not the only nation that has an issue with Google’s non-transparent sharing of ad revenues with the publishers.
“In the past one year, various acts and orders have come across a wide array of countries and since India is the world's biggest democracy, we are extremely hopeful that things would change here as well,” concluded Gupta.