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Managing news? Rajasthan govt follows Centre to rope in social media influencers

By Rosamma Thomas* 

In May 2021, the Advertising Standards Council of India issued guidelines for social media influencers, under which it is mandatory for influencers to tag their promotional material. The assumption is that consumers have a right to know if they are reading or consuming content that is paid for. A French Artificial Intelligence firm, Reech, has been roped in to monitor those violating the guidelines.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a tender on March 3 for empanelling social media marketing agencies under a project called MyGov. Although the government has a Press Information Bureau and a mechanism under it to spread information, the help of such agencies is sought to popularize government schemes.
Now, the Rajasthan Government too has issued a gazette notification on June 26, 2023, seeking social media applicants to engage for regular advertising. The influencers have been placed in different categories, based on the number of followers. The top-most category, or category A influencers, have at least 10 lakh followers each and can get advertisements worth at least Rs 5 lakh per month from the state government. Category D, with the lowest number of subscribers of at least 10,000, are entitled to advertisement of Rs 10,000 per month. On occasion, the notification states that even those not meeting these criteria may be engaged, for specific purposes.
The new advertising strategy will have long-term impact on how news is produced and consumed
The Rajasthan government has a department of information technology and communication, and it also has regular government personnel engaged in the information and public relations department of the state government. The need for an additional allocation for advertising through social media influencers is not apparent, under the circumstances. Given that funds for the purpose of engaging these social media influencers will be drawn from the state budget, it would be ideal for the state government to offer proactive public disclosure of who is engaged under the scheme.
The need for outsourcing such work is unclear, since the government has the wherewithal to reach out to the masses already through the regular media. The sidelining of the mainstream media, and the promotion of social media influencers through such advertising strategy, is bound to have long-term impact on the manner in which news is both produced and consumed. It would be good for observers of the media to study the impact of this outsourcing of media functions to social media influencers.
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*Freelance journalist 

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