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Circus of the damned: Mainstream media welcomes new digital media guidelines but begs to be exempt, left leaning outlets are heartbroken

The amusing aspect of it is NDTV, fake news peddler in chief among traditional media houses, is part of the DNPA as well. It is perhaps the first time that the NDTV has welcomed any move by the NDA Government at the center.

Members of Digital News Publishers’ Association (DNPA) met I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar recently over the new guidelines for Digital Media and requested that news websites associated with traditional media houses be exempted from the new rules as they already follow norms set by the Press Council of India.

One of the participants told The Economic Times on the condition of anonymity, “We told the minister that our websites follow the same regulations set by the Press Council of India (PCI) and/or News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA). The newsrooms are the same, and the editors approving the content for websites are also mindful of the norms newspapers and TV follow. We already have similar systems in place. So why put us through these regulations?”

After the meeting, the DNPA issued a statement saying, “DNPA made suggestions that preserve freedom of the press and emphasised that all its members are bound by, and follow, regulations of PCI and/or NBSA.” Dainik Bhaskar, India Today Group, NDTV, Hindustan Times, Indian Express, The Times of India, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Eenadu, and Malayala Manorama are the leading media houses of the organisation.

The amusing aspect of it is NDTV, fake news peddler in chief among traditional media houses, is part of the DNPA as well. It is perhaps the first time that the NDTV has welcomed any move by the NDA Government at the center. Such are the times we live in. The India Today Group, which boasts of propagandist luminaries such as Rajdeep Sardesai and Rahul Kanwal, is among its ranks as well.

The Ministry said in a statement, “The participants while welcoming the new rules stated that TV and print news media have been following the laid down norms of the Cable Television Network Act and the Press Council Act for a very long time. Further for publishing the digital versions, the publishers do follow the existing norms of the traditional platforms. They felt that they should be treated differently than those news publishers who are only on the digital platform.”

Thus, it appears that the meeting was constructive and all sides are happy with the discussions that transpired. Left-leaning digital media outlets, however, are not happy with the development. They feel that they have been thrown under the bus by the traditional media houses.

Dhanya Rajendran of The News Minutes expressed ‘hope’ that a clarification will be issued over the matter.

Jency Jacob, Managing Editor of Boom, called DNPA’s statement “shameful’ and said “not sure why it was needed”.

Supriya Sharma of Scroll asked why the association members called themselves ‘Digital News Publishers’.

Abhinandan Sekhri of Newslaundry was not too happy about it either.

The only thing that appears surprising here is that people associated with leftist media portals are surprised with the DNPA’s conduct over the matter. It is not clear why they expected their cooperation in the first place.

There does not appear to be an instance where the DNPA told them specifically that they would support their stance regarding the new regulations for Digital Media. The Leftist portals appear to be outraged that the DNPA is looking out for the interests of its own members.

On the part of the DNPA, their request makes sense. It is natural that they would want concessions for the member media houses. It is the very objective of interest groups, to ensure that the interests of its members are served.

The sheer level of entitlement that the leftist digital media outlets suffer from is mind-boggling indeed. On odd days, they curse and rant against the traditional media houses and call them ‘Godi Media’ despite the latter’s dedicated anti-Modi campaign that very often involves malicious fake news. One cannot blame the MSM for being annoyed and angry with the left-leaning media portals.

On even days, they want the same media houses to protect the interests of the leftist media portals. It seems they want to eat their cake and have it too. In fact, when the association was formed in 2018, Digital Media actively steered clear of it.

Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama expressed his unhappiness with the DNPA over recent events. But back in 2018, he did not see the need for norms to curb fake news. He had said, “Every publication has its own norms and editorial practices, just as we do. I don’t see the need for uniformity and a common code just as yet. We are not interested in signing up to a set of norms because that lays the groundwork for formal content regulation norms from the government, and suggests that our freedom of speech, which is restricted under Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution, is open to further control from the government. We don’t see the need for self-regulatory norms at this point in time, so I do not support this idea at this point in time.”

So after criticising and deliberately pouring insults on the formation of the association, they are now surprised that the DNPA is not looking after their interests. Colour me surprised. This is not in defense of DNPA in any manner. We are not vouching for their integrity, only admiring their ability to crawl when asked to bend.

After all, it is how those in the mainstream media have preserved their influence over the years. They can always be counted on to throw their friends under the bus if it can provide them with a competitive advantage.

Thus, we have a situation where mainstream media houses welcome the new regulatory framework for digital media websites but beg that they be exempted from it. It is quite convenient, indeed. It is now up to the government to decide whether their demands are legitimate or otherwise.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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