Digital news, streaming platforms to be regulated by I&B Ministry
Online news portals and content providers, like Netflix and Amazon Prime, will now be regulated by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, a notification issued on Wednesday read. As per the notice, President Ram Nath Kovind signed an order amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961. Till now, no laws or body looked over the digital content. Here are more details.
Earlier, I&B Ministry hinted it might regulate OTT content
The government's move is likely to miff creators, who were till now not worried about censorship. However, of late, there has been a growing concern about digital content, with many seeking a regulation. It was claimed that creators get away with "vulgar content." Last year, the I&B Ministry hinted that OTT platforms must also be regulated, just like print, electronic media, and movies.
Notification signed by President Kovind issued on Monday
The notification signed by President Kovind was issued on Monday. "In the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, in the second schedule under the heading 'Ministry of Information and Broadcasting' after entry 22, the following sub-heading and entries shall be inserted, namely: Films and audio-visual programs...by online content providers; news and current affairs content on online platforms," read the order.
Here is the notification issued by the government
Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules amended to include Digital/Online Media [Films and Audio-Visual programmes ,News and current affairs content] under Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. #GazetteUpdates https://t.co/JKwWvr1pCk pic.twitter.com/RVVb1YUAsj— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) November 11, 2020
Streaming platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, ALTBalaji brought under I&B Ministry
The latest notification effectively brings OTT platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, ALTBalaji, ZEE5, etc. as well as online news portals under the ambit of the I&B Ministry, currently led by Prakash Javadekar. Over the past couple of years, there have been concerns that content offered on such portals wasn't regulated in any manner since they didn't come under any ministry.
SC sought Centre's response on regulating OTT platforms
Interestingly, the notification from the government comes days after the Supreme Court sought a response from the Centre on a PIL for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body in India. A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had issued notices to the Centre, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, and the Internet and Mobile Association of India.
There must be some regulation on OTT platforms: Javadekar
In fact, last year, Javadekar had said that there must be some regulation on OTT platforms, similar to those that apply to print and electronic media and films. "I have sought suggestions on how to deal with this...who should monitor, who should regulate," he said at the time. However, he added that the government would not take any steps that may curb media freedom.
I&B Ministry refused to support self-regulation code floated by IAMAI
In September, 15 video-streaming platforms signed a universal code of self-regulation under the aegis of Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). However, the I&B Ministry refused to support this and informed IAMAI the code didn't have a list of prohibited content. It also said the code has a conflict of interest in terms of the Advisory Panel that deals with complaints and appeals.
Autonomous bodies that take care of films, print/electronic media
While there is no law or autonomous body to monitor digital content, there are film and TV bodies in India to take care of films and print and electronic media. The Press Council of India oversees print media, while the Central Board of Film Certification governs films. Meanwhile, the News Broadcasters Association moderates news channels, and the Advertising Standards Council of India monitors advertising.