Over-the-top media service

In a move that will have a far-reaching impact, the Union government has brought #OTT platforms, or video streaming service providers such as #Netflix, #AmazonPrime, #Hotstar, and others, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The government issued a notification that brings OTT platforms and online platforms publishing news under the I&B Ministry.

The notification that was issued on Monday by the cabinet secretariat informs about the new amendment signed by the President of India Ram Nath Kovind. The new law is an amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961 on November 9. The order categorically states:

In the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, in THE SECOND SCHEDULE, under the heading “MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING (SOOCHANA AUR PRASARAN MANTRALAYA)” after entry 22, the following sub-heading and entries shall be inserted, namely:-
“VA. DIGITAL/ONLINE MEDIA
22A. Films and Audio-Visual programmes made available by online content providers.
22B. News and current affairs content on online platforms.”.

Until this amendment, no government body regulated the content of digital media platforms, and this is something that the Information and Broadcasting Minister, Prakash Javdekar, has said was required to keep a tab on content, just like other countries such as China and Singapore have done.

Other forms of content are regulated by bodies such as the Press Council of India, the News Broadcasters Association, the Advertising Standards Council of India, and the Central Board of Film Certification.

At present, 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.

Mr. Javadekar did not speak on the issue or explain the implications of such an order. The Ministry has also remained tight-lipped on exactly what is in store for digital news media and OTT platforms. An official from one of the leading OTT platforms said that it was too early to comment since there was no clarity from the government on what this notification would finally lead to.

Founding editor of news portal The Wire, M. K. Venu, said the government had been giving enough hints from time to time that it wanted to regulate digital media but the exact nature of the regulation it wanted to bring was not clear. “There is no clarity on what they mean by digital media. The government talks about digital media and digital aggregators in the same breath but they are different things. Are they looking at licensing, are they looking at entry barriers, or are they looking at curbing digital media? We still don’t know,” Mr. Venu said.

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