Govt mulls new proposal to regulate UGC on social media under broadcast services bill

The government is mulling a significant new proposal, in the Broadcast Services Regulation (BSR) Bill, to include User Generated Content on social media platforms, when such content is put out by "professionals".

By  Storyboard18Jun 17, 2024 12:42 PM
Govt mulls new proposal to regulate UGC on social media under broadcast services bill
Press Club of India has proposed a National Media Council to protect press freedom and to include the broadcast and digital media.

Last year, the government introduced a new draft law to regulate the broadcasting sector which is also applicable to the streaming giants. The proposed regulation for OTT platforms, akin to cable TV, has raised some concerns about the impact on creative content and freedom of expression. The bill suggests official certification and a regulatory committee, potentially stifling artistic freedom, stakeholders have said while raising their concerns.

It proposed the formation of individual content evaluation committees with members from various social groups who will review and sign off on shows before they are released. It is to be noted that all films in Indian cinemas are reviewed and certified by a government-appointed board, whereas streamed content is not.

Additionally, according to internal reports and industry sources, the government is now also mulling a significant new proposal to include User Generated Content on social media platforms, when such content is put out by "professionals". The content generated by "professional creators" on social media will be regulated under the proposed Broadcast Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023.

To be sure, under the existing IT rules content regulation on social media platforms lies with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). However, under the new proposal, when passed, such content created by creator "professionals" on social media platforms like YouTube will be regulated by both the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) and MeitY.

Ambiguities regarding the role and responsibilities of platforms like Google and Meta, definitions of who or what constitutes professional creators and content, and scope and scale of the regulation that would potentially require millions of creators to be registered under the BSR act, have raised concerns among stakeholders.

Recently, the Press Club of India, along with other media stakeholders and press bodies resolved to intensify the demands of media and digital rights organisations and have urged the centre to withdraw laws that may allow the government to curb the freedom of press. The resolution criticizing the provisions granted to the government was published in a letter dated June 14, resulting from a meeting held on May 28. The resolution noted the provisions under laws such as the proposed Broadcast Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023, the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023, the Press and Registration of Periodicals Act, 2023, and the Information Technology Amendment Rules, 2023, which grants authority to the government to remove any online content pertaining to its business that it deems to be false or misleading.

The resolution, passed in a meeting two weeks ago, saw the participation of the Press Club of India, Press Clubs of Mumbai, Kolkata, Trivandrum and Chandigarh, DIGIPUB News Foundation, the Indian Journalist Union, the Delhi Union of Journalists, and Working News Cameramen’s Association, among others.

It highlighted that the Broadcast Services Regulation (BSR) Bill expands regulatory oversight to include OTT platform and digital content. The same will replace Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and proposes mandatory registration, content evaluation committees for self-regulation and a three-tier regulatory system.

Stakeholders have stated their apprehensions of control and regulation that may place unreasonable restrictions on the citizens’ right to know and right to freedom of expression.

The meeting demanded that the Press Council of India, established by an act of Parliament, be replaced by a Media Council to include the broadcast and digital media. The Media Council should be empowered to deal with the challenges emanating from a constantly changing media landscape. It should comprise working journalists, representatives of unions, owners and the government. It should be empowered to pass strictures on media houses, publications, broadcast and digitally published content and owners and take other such measures.

First Published on Jun 17, 2024 12:09 PM

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