In a move that is set to have a major impact on the industry, the Centre has issued a notification to bring online news portals and content providers under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, was issued on Monday.
The government regulations apply to content providers such as Amazon, Netflix, Hotstar as well as online news portals, including on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This will give the government control over OTT platforms, which were unregulated until now.
— Vasudha Venugopal (@vasudha_ET) November 11, 2020
The notification effectively brings OTT platforms under the I&B Ministry currently headed by Prakash Javadekar. According to an Economic Times report, a ministry official said the move was taken to ensure a level playing field for all media, and bring an “enabling regulatory environment so that all digital players adhere to the laws of the land.”
“Some content on certain platforms has caused a lot of problems to the citizens of the country who don’t even have a grievance redressal platform,” the ET report quoted a top ministry official as stating. Over the years, there have been multiple targeted campaigns against shows on OTT platforms (Leila, Aashram, XXX, Paatal Lok) in relation to sexual content, foul language, hurting religious sentiments, or causing offence.
— The Quint (@TheQuint) November 11, 2020
For months, the government has been hinting at the need to regulate these platforms. In October 2019, the government had indicated that it will issue a “negative” list of don’ts for the video streaming services like Netflix and Hotstar. It also wanted the platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body on the lines of the News Broadcasters Standard Authority.
Wednesday’s notification comes two months after 15 streaming platforms adopted a new and updated code of self-regulation that was developed by the Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). The measures included a modified grievance redressal mechanism, elimination of a stifling “prohibited content” list as well as of penalties for violation of the code.
In a move that will have a far-reaching impact, the Union government has brought #OTT platforms, or video streaming service providers such as #Netflix, #AmazonPrime and others, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcastinghttps://t.co/MoaRbPC11Q
— The Hindu Cinema (@TheHinduCinema) November 11, 2020
Many fear that regulation will have disastrous consequences on the industry that has seen an incredible boom in recent times.
This is one of the worst things to have happened in some time. They will destroy OTT content the way they destroyed TV. https://t.co/jXUn0LHBJ9
— Ankur Bhardwaj (@Bhayankur) November 11, 2020
Social media users also pointed out that regulation was unnecessary since people were making choices and no one is being forced to watch anything.
People pay for content. Nobody is getting anything for free and nobody is being forced to see anything. Its an entirely voluntary thing. Those who want to see are paying money from their pocket and consuming the content. I see no reason to regulate people's choices.
— Tilak (@timukh) November 11, 2020
And that's the beginning of the end for quality content on OTT platforms.
Strap yourselves for 'religious sentiments getting hurt' and more of the cultural crap creeping in on these platforms.. https://t.co/p6qwjIludW
— Roहित (@RohitKhendkar) November 11, 2020
Welcome to the death of good OTT content. https://t.co/lrT3E43yhh
— Paneer Offends Me (@insaniyana) November 11, 2020
Let the Sanskaar-ship begin. https://t.co/UAHQffn6yu
— Sharan Banerjee (@sharanbanerjee) November 11, 2020
The unregulated nature of online content has led to the discovery of immense talent and creativity. The government must be careful not to hamper that. There’s a thin line between regulation and censorship, and it’s a slippery slope once you get used to the latter.