November 12, 2020: A notification was issued in the Gazette of India on Monday, November 9, regarding the new government regulations on OTT platforms, news platforms, online, and other online streaming services.
Government regulations on OTT platforms
The order was issued by the central government. The order empowers the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to issue regulations over films, news, audio-visual contents, current affairs, etc streamed online on various portals, social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and OTT platforms like Netflix, Prime, Hotstar, MX player, etc.
Need for the order
While the existing bodies like the Press Council of India look over print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) monitors news channels, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certifies and censors films, and the Advertising Standards Council of India checks over advertising, there was no autonomous body to govern the digital content.
The indications towards the need to regulated the platforms were raised by the government time and again. The measure was taken to check the hate speech prevailing in media.
The petition stated that the online platforms enable the film-makers and artists to release the content without the need for approval and certification from the censor board.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting appealed to the Supreme court to get a permit on regulating the online platforms and asked the apex court to review with the help of an amicus committee before laying down the guidelines.
What regulations were in place before
Looking at the repeated indications laid down by the central government to regulate digital media, the streaming platforms laid down guidelines to adhere to the concerns raised by the government.
The streaming platforms unanimously laid down guidelines regarding content screening through their portals.
In January 2020, almost eight video streaming services signed the self-regulatory code that laid down the guiding principles for content creation and streaming.
Filing the petition
In October 2019, the Central Government indicated that a “negative list of don’ts” will be issued for the over the top or OTT streaming platforms like Netflix and Hotstar. The Government also wanted these platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body on the model of regulations by the News Broadcasters Standard Authority.
However, last month (October) the Supreme court sought the advice of the I & B Ministry regarding the petition to set an autonomous governing body to regulate OTT platforms. The order will be giving the government control over OTT platforms, which were unregulated until now.