Laws for self-regulation of news, OTT platforms on anvil
India is planning to draft and legislate an overarching statute for OTT (over the top) platforms and news websites that will define a framework for their self-regulation, and address the issues of sensitive content and fake news — a move that is aimed at creating a level playing field in the business.
There are at least 40 OTT platforms including global ones such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and HotStar (Disney Plus) and hundreds of news content websites. While news on sensitive content on some of the larger OTT platforms makes the headlines — Netflix’s Sacred Games and A Suitable Boy have both come under fire from various groups — a bunch of home-grown platforms that largely air soft-porn have managed to stay under the radar.
According to government officials familiar with the matter, the issue of self-regulation in digital media was taken up at the highest levels this month and ministry of Information and Broadcasting has decided to frame an overarching statute under which digital media can regulate itself.
HT learns that this could be on two dimensions. One, the creation of a self-regulating body, such as the Press Council of India, according to one of the officials, who asked not to be named. Two, a law; “TV channels are broadly regulated under The Cable Television Networks Regulation Act, the digital media which has been unregulated till now, will soon has an overarching regulation.”
OTT platforms in India reach around 40 million customers and make up a market worth around Rs.3000 crore.
Conscious about not trampling on any freedoms, the I and B Ministry has been talking to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which speaks on behalf of OTT platforms, for more than a year on self-regulation. An initial self-regulation framework suggested by the body has been rejected, government officials said, because it favoured the OTT companies.
The ministry is also worried that viewers upset with content on OTT platforms do not have a body they can appeal to — much like they do with TV companies.
The ministry, the officials added, has received complaints about language and nudity.
As for digital news websites, the officials said the ministry has received complaints about fake news, but again, is handicapped by the absence of a body that can take these up.