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Law Commission issues consultation paper on media laws

MUMBAI: The Law Commission of India has published a consultation paper, inviting comments on several issues related to the media, including media regulation, cross-media ownership, paid news, and opinion polls.

In the consultation paper, the Commission said that while there is every reason to celebrate the news media, as society evolves new challenges are constantly thrown up that require consideration.

“Technology has expanded our horizons but also brought with it new concerns. Recent events related to the news media, such as the proliferation and subsequent curbing of social media, the paid news phenomenon, fake sting operations, trial by media, breach of privacy, etc. pose a set of anxieties,” reads the consultation paper.

The consultation paper raises some concerns and poses a set of questions to help foster a ‘larger public debate’ among stakeholders and the citizenry to shape the approach which should be adopted in tackling these issues, it added.

The issues that have been raised are:

Regulation in media

  1. Do the existing self-regulation mechanisms require strengthening? If so, how can they be strengthened?
  2. In the alternative, should a statutory regulator be contemplated? If so, how can the independence of such regulator be guaranteed? Specifically,
    a)      How should members of such regulator be appointed?
    b)      What should the eligibility conditions of such members be?
    c)       What should their terms of service be?
    d)      How should they be removed?
    e)      What should their powers be?
    f)       What will be the consequences if their decisions are not complied with?
  3. Should any such change be uniform across all types of media or should regulators be medium-specific?

Cross-media ownership

  1.  Is there a current need for restrictions on cross control/ownership across the media sector?
  2. If so, what shape should such restrictions take?
  3. Are mergers and acquisitions guidelines necessary for the sector to regulate concentration of media ownership? If so, what are the key factors such regulations must capture?
  4. Do mandatory disclosure norms need to be imposed on media entities?
  5. Should certain categories of entities be restricted from entering into broadcasting activities?

Paid news

  1.  Should paid news be included as an election offence under the Representation of the People Act, 1951?
  2. How should it be defined?
  3. What enforcement mechanisms should be put in place to monitor and restrict the proliferation of paid news?

Opinion polls

  1.  Do opinion polls require any kind of regulation? If so, what kind?
  2. What are the reasons for seeking such regulation, if any?
  3. Will such regulation be constitutionally valid?

Other issues raised in the consultation paper are related to media and individual privacy, trial by media and rights of the accused, defamation, publications and contempt of court, regulations surrounding government-owned media, and social media and Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Those who wish to submit suggestions are advised to send written suggestions/comments either in English or Hindi to the Member Secretary, Law Commission of India, Hindustan Times House, 14th Floor, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi – 110 001, or email them tolci-dla@nic.in.