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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 26 February, 2021

  • 12 Min Read

OTT Platforms are now under Government’s ambit

OTT Platforms are now under Government’s ambit

What is the news?

  • The government has brought video streaming over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Hotstar, and others under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. These platforms were so far under the purview of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • 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.

What are OTT Platforms?

  • OTT, or over-the-top platforms, are audio and video hosting and streaming services which started out as content hosting platforms, but soon branched out into the production and release of short movies, feature films, documentaries and web-series themselves.
  • 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 which historically have made feature films.

What are the laws regulating OTT platforms?

  • So far in India, there were no laws or rules regulating OTT platforms as it is a relatively new medium of entertainment.
  • Unlike television, print or radio, which follow guidelines released by governments, OTT platforms, classified as digital media or social media, had little to no regulation on the choice of content they offered, the subscription rates, certification for adult movies and others.
  • In India, the regulation of such platforms has been widely debated and discussed. Following pressure to regulate the content being made available on these streaming platforms, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a representative body of the OTT platforms had proposed a self-regulatory model.
  • 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.

New rules for OTT Platforms

  • For the first time, the government, under the ambit of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, has brought in detailed guidelines for digital content on both digital media and Over The Top (OTT) platforms, while giving itself overriding powers.
  • The new rules lay down a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.
  1. Tier I: One will be at the level of each OTT provider. Each complaint will have to be addressed within 15 days. If the complaint is not satisfactorily addressed, then the complainant can scale it up to a self-regulatory body collectively established by the OTTs.
  2. Tier II: The Self-Regulatory Body will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or an independent eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, human rights or other relevant fields. This self-regulatory body also has “censuring” powers in case of any incriminating content. The rules say, “In case of any content where it is satisfied that there is a need for taking action to delete or modify the content for preventing incitement to the commission of a cognizable offence relating to public order.”
  3. Tier III: Government: To top this, at the third tier, the government has equipped itself with overriding powers in the form of “oversight mechanism”. An inter-ministerial committee will perform this function and it will largely have the same powers as the collective self regulatory body of the OTTs.
  • However, over and above this framework, the government has equipped itself with “emergency” powers to block public access of any information.
  • The rules state, “in case of emergency nature” the Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, may “if he is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient and justifiable” give orders to block access.
  • Such orders can be released “without giving an opportunity of hearing” to the publishing platform.
  • He added that both OTT and digital media would have to disclose details about themselves, their area of operation, the number of subscribers, and so on.
  • OTT platforms will have to self-classify content into five age based categories — U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”. The majority of OTT platforms currently follow this mechanism.

Other platforms

  • TV has to follow the code under the Cable Network Act.
  • Print media is regulated by the Press Council of India.
  • There is a Censor Board for films.

  • Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe the ‘Norms of Journalistic Conduct’ of the Press Council of India and the ‘Programme Code’ under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.
  • Setting out general principles, the rules say that publishers should take into consideration that the content does not “affect the sovereignty and integrity of India” or “jeopardises the security of the State”, among other things.

Source: TH


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