- The government has brought video streaming over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Hotstar, and others under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).
- These platforms were so far under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- Over-the-top platforms, are audio and video hosting and streaming services.
- These platforms offer a range of content and use artificial intelligence to suggest users the content they are likely to view based on their past viewership on the platform.
- Most OTT platforms generally offer some content for free and charge a monthly subscription fee for premium content which is generally unavailable elsewhere.
- The premium content is usually produced and marketed by the OTT platform themselves, in association with established production houses.
Regulation for media platforms
- At the moment there are a mix of autonomous, government bodies and self-regulatory bodies for various types of entertainment and news providers depending on the platform.
- For print media, there is the Press Council of India, which is a statutory, quasi-judicial authority and for television news, there is News Broadcasting Standards Authority, which is a self-regulatory body.
- For films there is the Central Board of Film Certification, which comes under the I&B Ministry.
- For television entertainment, there is Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, which is also independent and self-regulatory.
- Similarly, the Advertising Standards Council of India, that regulates advertising is also a self-regulatory body.
- Moreover, the I&B Ministry also has a mechanism to penalize television channels—both, news and non-news—for any violation of the programme code and the advertising code prescribed under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995.
- However, there are no laws or rules regulating OTT platforms as it is a relatively new medium of entertainment.
Issue of unregulated content on OTT platforms
- The issue of unregulated content on the OTT platforms has been raised in the courts several times in the past.
- The government has been pushing the OTT platforms, also known as Online Curated Content Providers,to come up with a self-regulatory mechanism.
- Following government pressure to regulate content, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a representative body of the OTT platforms had proposed a self-regulatory model.
- A Digital Curated Content Complaints Council (DCCC) was also proposed along with the self-regulatory mechanism.
- However, the government had refused to support the model proposed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
- As per the government, the self-regulatory model and the DCCC lacked independent third-party monitoring and did not have a well-defined code of ethics.
- The government also said that the model suffered from issues of conflict of interest, and did not define prohibited content clearly.
Impact of the current move
- According to media experts the move can have a negative effect on the creative freedom and expression of OTT platforms.
- It can lead to a situation where the OTT platforms would have to apply for certification and approval of their content.
- This could give rise to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored by the certification boards in India.
- The future depends on whether the I&B ministry comes up with any guidelines to regulate content on OTT platforms.
- OTT platforms are likely to resist the plans to censor the content being provided by them as these platforms have often chosen to produce movies and documentaries on sensitive but relevant topics.