There is no law or an autonomous body that governs digital content or Over-the-top (OTT) platforms in India(AFP)
There is no law or an autonomous body that governs digital content or Over-the-top (OTT) platforms in India(AFP)

I&B ministry starts work on self-regulation law for OTT platforms, online news

  • The aim is to provide a level-playing field in media and a platform to redress public grievances against digital media.
UPDATED ON JAN 16, 2021 02:10 PM IST

In a move aimed at providing a level-playing field in the media, the Narendra Modi government has decided to bring in an overarching statute that will provide for self-regulation in digital media including Over-the-top (OTT) platforms and news websites to address issues of sensitive video content and fake news, people familiar with the matter said. There are at least 40 OTT platforms including multinationals like Netflix, Amazon Prime and HotStar and hundreds of news content websites.

The issue of self-regulation in digital media was taken up at the highest levels this month. Subsequently, the ministry of information and broadcasting decided to frame an overarching statute under which the digital media can self-regulate itself, a senior government official said.

“Like the print media has the Press Council of India, films have the Central Board of Film Certification and TV channels are broadly regulated under The Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, the digital media which has been unregulated till now, will soon have an overarching regulation for redressal of complaints on content,” the official said.

The market size of OTT platforms in India is close to 1,000 crore with around 20 crore users. Some of the OTT platforms are accessed through annual subscription fees, while a large number of them are free in a bid to attract subscribers.

A second government official said the I&B ministry was conscious that the proposed legal regime should not curtail the freedom enjoyed by the sector and has been engaging with the Internet and Mobile Association of India for more than a year on self-regulation. The association is representing the interests of the OTT platforms.

It is, however, felt that the self-regulating mechanism proposed by the association is tilted too heavily in favour of the OTT platforms. The other issue that the I&B ministry is trying to rectify is that while there is a mechanism to redress grievances involving the print and cable media, there is no such platform available for the digital media.

The I&B ministry has been receiving complaints from the public over the adult content and language shown in OTT platforms that sometimes borders on soft porn. There have also been complaints against single-shop digital news websites for creating discontent in society by indulging in fake news without any redressal or retraction.

The government is also examining the Australian model where multinational tech platforms such as Google and Facebook have been asked to pay for local news content. However, tech platforms like YouTube have explained to the government that they or other platforms only upload content from parties with which they have an agreement or are subscribers of the platform.

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