The digital media landscape has changed tremendously over the last decade. Social media has amplified false narratives to alarming levels. Let us set aside Left-Right-Center narratives for a moment. Those indulging in extreme views are not realizing the country’s image is taking a beating because of the narratives they are amplifying. The Honorable Supreme Court too had to take notice of the damage being caused,
- Social media platforms must be accountable: Supreme Court
- Election & Voting Processes Stand Threatened By Social Media Manipulation, Says Supreme Court
- CJI flags ‘communal content’ in media
The court, rightfully, has supported citizens’ usage of social media to communicate their grievances.
A few social media giants were not happy with India’s new Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021 – the sticky point – mandatorily appoint a Chief Compliance Officer, nodal officer and a resident grievance officer!
Govt had to issue ‘several last warnings‘ before Twitter complied by appointing a compliance officer. It is comforting to see the law requires social media platforms need to appoint a resident grievance officer. There was hesitation from social media platforms to appoint one.
Print and TV media have mechanisms to lodge your complaint but there is too much friction in lodging a complaint. The new IT Rules require media houses, including digital media, to appoint a grievance officer. However, the media is unhappy because the definition of grievance is not clear. If digital media had pro-actively appointed a mechanism to resolve grievances and disputes there wasn’t a need to introduce the new IT Rules. Media associations failed their members, they failed their readers.
To give an example a few media houses publish articles that target Prasar Bharti (AIR, DD).
The media publishes articles based on leads, nothing wrong with it. But are the authors always confirming from the authorized personnel of the entity in question about the veracity of the news? Let us assume they do speak to some officials who don’t want to be named, that’s fine. But when an official clarification is given why can’t the journalist publish the rebuttal too? I say it is mandatory to publish the rebuttal. And when it comes to digital, the editor has a duty to have a prominent link to the rebuttal from the original article.
What does the media house lose by publishing the rebuttal? Nothing. They only gain respect.
If senior officials are not able to get their voices heard what about individuals and smaller companies? How do they get their grievances heard?
Applying ODR to Media Disputes
Most grievances and disputes should not take up the bandwidth of our courts. The mechanism of online dispute resolution can absorb the bulk of such grievances/disputes. ODR uses the online application of tools such as negotiation, mediation and conciliation to amicably resolve disputes without them taking an adversarial, and often ugly, turn.
Online Dispute Resolution [ODR] can absorb the bulk of such cases. The ODR handbook from Agami has very useful info about this subject.
ODR is built on the vision that disputes can be resolved in a seamless manner, from anywhere, by anybody, at a fraction of cost and time.
Digital Media Look Other Grievance and Dispute Resolution Frameworks
The financial sector has mechanisms to deal with grievances and disputes. To quote from RBI’s notification,
..a proper analysis and disclosure of complaints would be possible only if there is an effective machinery for redressal of grievances in banksRBI/2007-08/309 DBOD.No.Leg BC.81/09.07.005/2007-08
The Banking Ombudsman Scheme is an expeditious and inexpensive forum for bank customers for resolution of complaints relating to certain services rendered by banks. The Banking Ombudsman Scheme is introduced under Section 35 A of the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 by RBI with effect from 1995.Banking Ombudsman FAQ
The Reserve Bank of India’s directive on online dispute resolution for digital payments says,
The ODR system should be a transparent, rule-based, system-driven, user-friendly and unbiased mechanism for resolving customer disputes and grievances, with zero or minimal manual intervention.
The media should start with a basic mechanism of recording disputes and evolve it over time. After all, RBI does that too – RBI redefines the Grievance Redress Mechanism in Banks.
India has a few digital media associations. It is very important for them to work with each other and agree upon a dispute resolution mechanism. If they don’t it will only harm their ecosystem. Designing an ODR framework for media will not be easy – you will have plenty of politically aligned readers who will flood the ODR platform. The media needs to work with ODR experts, ODR volunteers and ODR platforms to design an effective dispute resolution for media. It can be done as we are seeing in the account aggregator ecosystem where many ODR innovators, thinkers and champions are collectively designing the ODR framework that is needed.
The various media associations should come up with an ODR framework. There are networks such as Agami where ODR innovators and leaders can support ecosystems/sectors to apply ODR to their unique dispute needs. This should not be seen as media not having freedom of speech.
We, readers, want news reporting to be accurate, opinions should be published under the heading Opinion and not News. It takes a lot of effort and time to design an ODR framework but this is a good opportunity for the media to be a changemaker.
The emergence of ODR solutions for media driven by the media players themselves will demonstrate to institutions such as the Ministry of information and broadcasting that there is a commitment on behalf of the players to manage their own conflicts and they do not need to be extensively regulated in a way that stifles innovation and creativity.
As much as there is a need to avoid acrimony and polarising behaviour in mass communications systems there is a greater need to do things that engender TRUST such as negotiate and mediate our grievances and disputes. Our society would be stronger for it.