Role of Information and Broadcasting Ministry in ensuring internal security
Why in News:
- On January 31 2022, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry barred the transmission of Malayalam news channel Media One citing ‘security reasons‘. Later, the Kerala High Court granted a stay, allowing the channel to continue functioning.
- Recently, the Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the Centre’s decision to revoke the security clearance of Malayalam news channel MediaOne
- In the case of Media One, its licences were revoked because the Home Ministry had denied it security clearance, which is essential as part of the policy.
In which sectors can the I&B Ministry regulate content?
- Until 2021, it had the powers to regulate content across all sectors — TV channels, newspapers and magazines, movies in theatres and on TV, and the radio — barring the internet.
- In 2021, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, extended its regulatory powers over internet content too, especially on digital news platforms and OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime etc.
In the case of movies
- Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has a mandate to give any film that will be played in a theatre, a rating indicating the kind of audience it is suitable for. For example, a movie with sensitive or sexual content would get an adults-only certificate.
- In practice, however, the CBFC has often suggested changes or cuts to a film before giving it a certification. While it isn’t the CBFC’s mandate to censor a film, it can withhold giving a rating unless the filmmaker agrees to its suggestions.
In the case of television and OTT
- When it comes to TV channels, there is a three-tier grievance redressal structure for viewers to raise concerns.
- A viewer can successively approach the channel, then a self-regulatory body of the industry, and finally the I&B Ministry, which can issue a showcause notice to the channel, and then refer the issue to an inter-ministerial committee (IMC).
- For content on OTT platforms too, there is a similar structure.
- The ministry also has the Electronic Media Monitoring Cell, which tracks channels for any violations of the programming and advertising codes mentioned in the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994.
- Violation can lead to revocation of a channel’s uplinking licence (for sending content to a satellite) or downlinking licence (for broadcasting to viewers through an intermediary).
- It is these licences of MediaOne that the government revoked.
In the case of Print Media( Newspapers/magazines)
- In print, based on the recommendations of the Press Council of India, the government can suspend its advertising to a publication.
Other online content(websites/online arenas)
- Latest IT rules allow the I&B Ministry to issue orders to ban websites based on their content.
- There is also a new mechanism the I&B Ministry adopts: It has used emergency powers under the new IT Rules to block certain YouTube channels and social media accounts based on inputs from intelligence agencies.
What kind of content is not allowed?
- There are no specific laws on content allowed or prohibited in print and electronic media, radio, films or OTT platforms.
- The content on any of these platforms has to follow the free speech rules .
- Article 19(1) of the Constitution, while protecting freedom of speech, also lists certain “reasonable restrictions” including content related to the security of the state, friendly relationship with foreign states, public order, decency and morality etc.
- Action can be taken if any of these restrictions is violated.
Do other agencies play a role?
- There is no direct involvement, as the powers to regulate content rest only with the I&B Ministry.
- However, the ministry relies on inputs from other ministries, as well as intelligence agencies.
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