The central government is preparing a bill for a new registration regime for newspapers that will also include the digital news media industry, which currently is not included in the Centre’s registration framework, reported The Economic Times.
The government will propose the Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019, with the changes before the Cabinet soon. The new bill will replace the colonial-era Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, which currently regulated the newspaper and printing press industry in India.
If the bill is passed, digital news websites operating in India will come on par with newspapers, and they will have to register themselves with the Press Registrar General, equivalent to the prevalent Registrar of Newspapers in India, the ET report stated. Digital news platforms currently do no such registrations.
The Centre in 2019 had put out a draft of the bill that defined ‘news on digital media’ as “news in digitised format that can be transmitted over the internet, computer or mobile networks and includes text, audio, video and graphics”.
When the bill was proposed, it stirred controversy as many argued that it was the Centre’s attempt to ‘control’ digital news media. The central government at that time had not moved further with the draft bill.
However, the Centre has now finalised all ministerial and other stakeholder consultations, and the bill will not go to the Union Cabinet for approval, after which it will be presented in the Parliament, ET reported.
The ET report stated that the 2019 bill would also free up the book publishing industry by removing existing provisions related to book registrations and related matters.
The draft also proposes to ‘decriminalise’ and simplify registration requirements and regulations.