Regulation of OTT platforms
What are OTT platforms?
- OTT stands for “over-the-top” and refers to the productized practice of streaming audio and video content to customers directly over the web.
- These platforms started out as content hosting platforms, but soon branched out into the production and release of short movies, feature films, documentaries and web-series themselves.
- Most OTT platforms generally offer some content for free and charge a monthly subscription fee for premium content which is generally unavailable elsewhere.
- Currently, 40 OTT platforms operate in India.
Why in News?
- Twenty-one MPs cutting across the party lines have sought an answer from the government about content on OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, asking the Centre whether it is aware that these platforms are full of “sex, violence, abuse, vulgarity and disrespect to religious sentiments”.
- Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said his Ministry would soon come up with a regulatory code on the content on these platforms. The guidelines are expected to be made public soon.
- In November 2020, the Government amended the “allocation of Business Rules” bringing all online platforms under the mandate of the I&B Ministry. All platforms were told to register with the Ministry.
- Earlier, these platforms were under the purview of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
- The move is expected to give the government control over OTT platforms, which were unregulated till now.
What are the laws regulating OTT platforms?
- At present, the Press Council of India regulates the print media, the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) represents the news channels, the Advertising Standards Council of India regulates advertising, while the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors films.
- However, so far, there are no laws or rules regulating OTT platforms as it is a relatively 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.
- Following pressure to regulate the content being made available on these streaming platforms, eight video streaming services had signed a self-regulatory code that laid down a set of guiding principles for content on these platforms.
- The proposal, however, was rejected by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which will now oversee these platforms.
What happens now to the OTT platforms?
- With the government deciding to regulate films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers, the first challenge before the OTT platforms would be keeping a check on their content.
- The latest move could also mean that these platforms would have to apply for certification and approval of the content they wish to stream.
- This in itself could give rise to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored by the certification boards in India.
- OTT platforms are likely to resist any plans to censor the content being provided and streamed by them as these platforms have often chosen to produce movies and documentaries on politically sensitive but relevant topics.
- It will also have to be seen as to what guidelines, if any, does the I&B ministry put in place for regulating these OTT platforms.
- According to reports, with a market size of nearly Rs 500 crore at the end of March 2019, the online video streaming platforms may become a Rs 4000-crore revenue market by the end of 2025.
- At the end of 2019, India had as many as 17 crore OTT platform users.
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