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Regulations on OTT and Digital Content

  • 12 Nov 2020
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, the Government has brought Over The Top (OTT) platforms, or digital video streaming service providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and others, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • The government had indicated the necessity to monitor these platforms and wanted the platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body.
    • In January 2019, eight video streaming services had signed a self-regulatory code that laid down a set of guiding principles for content on these platforms which prohibited five types of content:
      • Content that deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag.
      • Any visual or storyline that promotes child pornography.
      • Any content that “maliciously” intends to outrage religious sentiments.
      • Content that “deliberately and maliciously” promotes or encourages terrorism.
      • Any content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or court.
    • However, the government refused to support this code and expressed displeasure at a model suggested by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), and Digital Curated Content Complaints Council (DCCC).
      • IAMAI is a not-for-profit industry body registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860. Its mandate is to expand and enhance the online and mobile value-added services sectors
      • DCCC was launched by the Online Curated Content Providers (OCCP) in February 2020 to empower consumers to make informed choices on viewing content over OTT platforms and to also provide consumers with a complaints redressal mechanism.
    • It held that the model lacked independent third-party monitoring, did not have a well-defined code of ethics and did not clearly enunciate prohibited content.
  • Current Order:
    • It covers “Digital/Online Media”, including “films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” and “news and current affairs content on online platforms”.
    • It will give the government control over these platforms, which were unregulated till now as there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.
    • Online content providers come under the legal framework of the Information Technology Act 2000 but, unlike print and broadcast media, were not directly under any Ministry.
    • However, there are no details on how the government will regulate it. There is a possibility that the Programme Code of the Cable Television Network Regulation Act 1995, that governs content on TV, may serve as a template to frame rules for online content.
  • Reasons Behind the Order:
    • The Ministry also keeps receiving complaints from the public underlining the concerns of unregulated content and need to regulate it. In October 2020, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and the IAMAI, on a petition to regulate OTT platforms.
    • The Ministry is already regulating news and entertainment content on TV and radio through statutory bodies so it is important to bring the digital content under its purview as well.
    • With the growth of the digital media and a significant shift of viewership from traditional media platforms to digital media, there is a real need for having an appropriate oversight framework for online news and content, at par with traditional media platforms.

Rules and Regulatory Bodies for Other Platforms

  • Regulations:
    • The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995 penalises television channels for any violation of the programming and advertising.
      • Complaints can be sent directly to the Ministry, or raised through the internal mechanism of the Electronic Media Monitoring Centre.
    • In November 2019, the Government had brought out a draft Registration of Press and Periodicals (RPP) Bill, which sought to replace the 150-year-old Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.
    • Cable Networks Regulation Act 2005 regulates both news and entertainment on television.
  • Various Sectors and Regulating Bodies:
    • Print Media:
    • Television:
      • News Broadcasting Standards Authority (self-regulatory body) set up by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) regulates television news.
      • Electronic Media Monitoring Centre, set up in 2008, monitors content on TV.
      • Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (independent and self-regulatory) for television entertainment.
    • Films:
    • Advertisement:
      • Advertising Standards Council of India (a self-regulatory body).

Source: TH

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