The government has issued an order bringing online news portals and content providers such as Netflix under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, was issued on Monday (November 10). Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.
The Press Council of India takes care of the print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) monitors news channels, the Advertising Standards Council of India is for advertising while the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) takes care of films.
Last month, the Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response on a petition for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body. The top court issued notices to the Centre, I&B Ministry and Internet and Mobile Association of India.
OTT platforms include news portals and also streaming services such as Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which are accessible over the internet or ride on an operator’s network.
None of the OTT/streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the I&B ministry since February 2020, the plea had alleged.
This September, the I&B ministry had refused to support the self-regulation code floated by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). About 15 video streaming platforms operating in the country had come together under the aegis of the IAMAI to sign a code of self-regulation.
Echoing the government’s call for self-regulation and not censorship or intervention, OTT service providers had formulated a framework for age classification, appropriate content description and access control. The code also said there will be a grievance redress mechanism through either a consumer complaints department or an advisory panel. This could comprise independent members specializing in fields such as gender equality, child rights, etc.
Platforms on board included Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, ALTBalaji, ZEE5, Arre, Discovery+, Eros Now, Flickstree, Hoichoi, Hungama, MX Player, Shemaroo, VOOT, Jio Cinema, SonyLIV and Lionsgate Play.
OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board, the petition said.
The I&B Ministry had earlier told the top court in a separate case that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in the media.
Last year, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that the government will not take any step that may curb media freedom, adding there should be some kind of regulation on over-the-top platforms (OTT), as there is for the print and electronic media as well as films.