Govt’s grip over OTTs

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/12/2020 1:13:05 PM IST

 In a move that could have a far-reaching impact, the central government has brought Over The Top (OTT) platforms, or video streaming service providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and others, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content. In a gazette notification signed by the President of India , online films, digital news and current affairs content now come under the purview of the I&B Ministry headed by Prakash Javadekar. The government had been toying with the idea of regulating these platforms. Taking cognisance of the need to have a self-regulatory system, the OTTs adopted a code which prohibited five types of content. This includes content that deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag, any visual or story line that promotes child pornography, any content that “maliciously” intends to outrage religious sentiments, content that “deliberately and maliciously” promotes or encourages terrorism and, lastly, any content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or court. The Online Curated Content Providers or OCCPs had also proposed a Digital Curated Content Complaints Council along with the self-regulatory mechanism as a part of its proposed two-tier structure. The proposal, however, was shot down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which will now oversee these platforms. Presently, other non-government bodies such as the Press Council of India regulates the print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) represents the news channels, the Advertising Standards Council of India regulates advertising, while the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors films. What has attracted concern from many media promoters is the real intention of the government with the latest regulation. The government has not provided any specific details but past experiences suggest that it could be in putting restrictions against a “independent and liberal media”. Also it is speculated if the government has any intention of being the licence provider for the OTTs it could make things difficult for those it disapproves. The government’s decision has taken many by surprise given the fact that the I & B ministry had earlier told the top court in a separate case that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in the media. Also last year, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that the government will not take any step that may curb media freedom, adding there should be some kind of regulation on over-the-top platforms, as there is for the print and electronic media as well as films. The move to bring the OTT platforms under the I&B ministry could also mean that these platforms would have to apply for approval of the content they wish to stream. This in itself is likely to give rise to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored in India. Besides control, perhaps there is also the revenue angle. With a market size of nearly Rs 500 crore at the end of March 2019, the online video streaming platforms may become a Rs 4000-crore revenue market by the end of 2025, according to reports. At the end of 2019, India had as many as 17 crore OTT platform users.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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