Rules for OTT platform in India

Digital media has been largely unregulated till now and has allowed complete freedom to content creators. The increase popularity by Indian audience has led to a massive consumption of the content followed by release of a large number of OTT platforms in India. However, this also resulted in numerous controversies including shows both foreign and Indian. Netflix’s the Suitable Boy, Amazon Prime’s Taandav, and Alt Balaji’s XXX are some of the shows which attracts controversy between Indian viewers. These shows are said to be obscene, defaming and hurting religious sentiments. The ministry of information and broadcast (MIB) in the past years has stressed on some form of regulations of OTT platforms to streamline the sector.

In November 2020, Supreme Court heard a petition to regulate OTT platforms. The honorable court issued a notice to IAMAI and the Centre, after which a notification was released stating that all online curated content providers including the OTT platforms will come under the ambit of the ministry of Information and Broadcast instead of their own regulatory body.

The OTT coming under MIB would be a change in administrative authority and a shift to a more ministering MIB would be a prelude to the government to frame out regulations and bring out a list of prohibited content.
The rules set to regulate the OTT is borrowed heavily from the existing regulations and the structure governing the television media. For instance, digital news platform will have to follow the program code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act and Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the press council of India. The new rules lay down a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism. One will be at the level of each OTT provider. Each complaint will have to be addressed within 15 days. Also, the OTT platforms will not stream content, which is against the sovereignty and integrity of the country endangers security of the state, which is detrimental to India’s friendly relations with foreign countries, and contents which is likely to incite violence or disturb public order.

The platforms also have to take into consideration India’s multi-racial and multi-religious context and beliefs, practices or views of any racial group, according to the rules.

OTT platforms are very different from TV broadcast and cinemas. In OTT platforms, viewers have a choice on what kind of content they want to watch unlike the TV broadcasts. In my views content streamed on OTT platforms are not meant for public viewing rather it is meant for private viewing and hence cannot be regulated under the Cinematographic Act, 1952 and so cannot be treated as a TV or cinema.

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