The Union government has ordered that all online news portals and content providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, and others be brought under the purview of the information and broadcasting ministry. 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, according to reports. At the end of 2019, India had as many as 17 crore OTT platform users.

If you don’t know the OTT platform, are audio and video hosting and streaming services that provide short movies, feature films, documentaries, and web-series themselves. These platforms offer a range of content and use artificial intelligence to suggest to users the content they are likely to view based on their past viewership on the platform. Most OTT platforms generally offer some content for free and charge a monthly subscription fee for premium content.

OTT PLATFORM REGULATIONS

So far in India, no laws or rules are 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. 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.

The Online Curated Content Providers or OCCPs had also proposed a Digital Curated Content Complaints Council along with the self-regulatory mechanism as a part of its proposed two-tier structure. The proposal, however, was shot down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which will now oversee these platforms.

NEW REGULATIONS FOR OTT PLATFORM

Programs 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.

The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind and issued on Monday, said government regulations would also apply to the news on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Until now, OTT platforms streamed digitally fell under the domain of the information and technology ministry. 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.

This decision triggered mixed reactions from the film industry. Some contended that the move to regulate digital content would “curtail” the creative and personal freedom of filmmakers and viewers.

Anshuman, director-writer of web series ‘Mirzapur’ and ‘Inside Edge’ on Amazon Prime Video, however, said the decision was “unacceptable” and appealed to viewers and creators to band together and challenge “censorship” of any kind. “Whatever happened to the understanding with (Prakash) Javadekar that OTT will be self-regulated? The government is giving in to the basest demands of prudes. How is this progress in any manner? Don’t like it, don’t watch it. Don’t impose your regressive views on a billion people. Where is the public discourse before this autocratic decision was announced? And what’s the process to appeal, if there’s one at all?” he said on Twitter.

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