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In Maharashtra, special cell to counter ‘negative’ news

There is also a plan to set up a dedicated 'social media wing' to comb posts and feedback uploaded on various social media platforms, blogs and web portals of media houses.

Written by Sandeep A Ashar | Mumbai |
Updated: August 2, 2016 3:04:55 am
 maharashtra, maharashtra government, negative news, web portals, web cells, special media monitoring, social media wing, devendra fadnavis, emmc, indian express news, india news Maharashtra Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. (Express Archive)

The Maharashtra government has decided to form a special media monitoring cell in the state secretariat to track content on news channels round the clock and counter news that it feels is negative. There is also a plan to set up a dedicated ‘social media wing’ to comb posts and feedback uploaded on various social media platforms, blogs and web portals of media houses.

Senior government officials said the objective was to keep a tab on the narrative across digital platforms and launch an instant counter to defend the government’s version every time the establishment felt that it was being portrayed in a negative light.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appears to have modelled the initiative on the Centre, which has an independent Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) that monitor feeds of 600-plus media channels round the clock. The Central government also has a New Media Wing that monitors news-related web traffic to gauge public opinion. In fact, the Narendra Modi government has also proposed a dedicated analytics centre — the New Media Analytics Centre — to analyse news and web feeds.

Fadnavis has already set the plan in motion with the finance department raising Rs 1.5 crore in supplementary expenditure during the monsoon session to set up the monitoring cell. “The state government is authorised to take action against TV channels for violating any provision of the Cable Television Network Act. Therefore, there is a need to establish a well equipped modern media monitoring centre for monitoring and transmitting data of 20 channels,” says the state’s explanatory note for the expenditure, which was placed before the state legislature during the ongoing monsoon session.

While Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar presented supplementary demands to the legislature, the explanatory memorandum for these has been authorised by Additional Chief Secretary, (Finance) Dinesh Kumar Jain. Sources in the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations confirmed the idea was to come up with “instant counters” to news items viewed as negative so that public opinion was not built against the government.

The counter will be launched through press notes, media briefings, posts on various social media platforms or audio/visual clips. The content on the
posts would be passed on to ministries and department secretaries for possible intervention, sources said.

Earlier this year, Fadnavis had issued orders directing departments to “respond promptly” to defend the government in the face of negative news reports.

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