The Indian government has brought online mediums, including films and news content, under the ministry of information and broadcasting. The I&B ministry will also regulate online audio-visual programmes and current affairs content, according to the amendment order signed by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday.
This means that digital content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotsar will now be regulated by the Union ministry headed by Prakash Javadekar.
While the Press Council of India (PCI) looks after the print media, the television news channels come under News Broadcasters Association (NBA). The Advertising Standards Council of India is for regulating the content of the advertisements and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors films, but there is at present no law or autonomous body governing digital content or Over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
So far in India, there are no laws or rules regulating OTT platforms as it is a new medium of entertainment. Unlike television, print, or radio, which follow guidelines released by governments, OTT platforms, classified as digital media or social media, had little to no regulation on the choice of content they offered, the subscription rates, certification for adult movies, and others.
In India, the regulation of such platforms has been widely debated and discussed. Following pressure to regulate the content being made available on these streaming platforms, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a representative body of the OTT platforms had proposed a self-regulatory model.
With the government deciding to bring films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” as well as “news and current affairs content on online platforms”, the first challenge before the OTT platforms would be keeping a check on their content.
The central government’s move to bring the OTT platforms under the I&B ministry could also mean that these platforms would have to apply for certification and approval of the content they wish to stream. This in itself is likely to give rise to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored by the certification boards in India.