Fake news is more dangerous than paid news and there is need for the government and the media to combat it jointly, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Thursday.
The government will not take any step that may curb media freedom, the minister said and suggested there should be some kind of regulation on over-the-top platforms (OTT), as there is for the print and electronic media as well as films.
OTT platforms include news portals and also ‘streamers’ such as Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which are accessible over the internet or ride on an operator’s network.
In an interaction with PTI journalists at the news agency’s headquarters here, Javadekar said several mainstream media outlets have conveyed to the government that that there was no level-playing field with OTT platforms being completely unregulated.
“I have sought suggestions on how to deal with this because there are regular feature films coming on OTT — good, bad and ugly. So how to deal with this, who should monitor, who should regulate. There is no certification body for OTT platforms and likewise news portals also,” he said.
At the same time, he said the government has not taken any decision on the matter.
The Press Council of India takes care of the print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) monitors news channels, the Advertising Standards Council of India is for advertising while the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) takes care of films, he said.
“However, there is nothing for the OTT platforms,” the I & B minister said.
There has been a spurt in news portals in India with several of them seeing a rise in the number of online subscribers.
Javadekar also expressed concern over fake news, saying it is “more dangerous than paid news”.
“Fake news has to be stopped and that is our joint work. It is not just the government’s job, it is everybody’s job. Those who are in the business of genuine news, they all must strive hard (to combat it),” the minister said.
He said several media channels are tackling the menace by showing the truth with programmes such as “Viral Sach”, and added that the print media should also carry columns on similar lines uncovering the truth of fake news.
“We have seen in the last few months that fake news on social media and gossip, rumours on child lifting have resulted in the deaths of more than 20-30 people in mob violence,” he said.
Javadekar said the government is doing its bit to combat the menace and has run programmes on Doordarshan News such as ‘Kashmir ka Sach’ to tackle fake news about Kashmir, where Article 370 provisions were abrogated on August 5.
“We will be fast enough to react if there is fake news on government matter but the government is also concerned about overall public order. We are also asking state administrators to act (in countering fake news),” he said.
Many district magistrates have placed facts before the public to counter fake news about their area, he said.
Talking about paid news, the minister said it is unethical and the media community has to stop it.
“It has to give us (the government) suggestions, so that we all can act together to ensure that the small percentage of media that indulges in this are punished and this practice goes away,” Javadekar said.
On the 10 per cent customs duty to be levied on imported newsprint and the subsequent demands for a rollback from the print media industry, Javadekar said discussions have taken place on the issue involving all stakeholders and the matter will be settled.