In a major development, the government of India has issued an order that brings all the online news portals and OTT players, likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos, under the radar of the Information and Broadcasting ministry.
The current Indian government has always been in the favour of regulating online content. The increasing number of online news portals, internet users and homegrown OTT players made the government feel that its high time to tighten the grip around content that is being freely broadcasted on the internet without any restrictions or regulations.
Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, has already signed the notification on November 09, 2020.
A month ago, the Supreme Court looked for the Indian government reaction on an appeal for directing OTT platforms by a self-sufficient body. The top Indian court gave notifications seeking response from all the stake holders including the government, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Internet and Mobile Association of India.
For the last few years Indian government has been vocal about bringing the internet content under the scanner and to regulate the OTT platforms. The govenrment believes that since the print media, electronic media and films falls under regulations, OTT players must not be exempted and here should be some kind of regulation for them as well.
Last year, Prakash Javadekar – Information and Broadcasting Minister, clarified the government stand by stating that any such step will not curb media freedom.
In a different case earlier, the Information and Broadcasting ministry had told the top court that there it’s high time to regulate digital media and that the court may initially designate a council of people as amicus prior to setting down with new rules regarding the guideline of hate speed in the media.
The move will give the government power over OTT platforms, which were unregulated till now.
In October 2019, the government hinted that a list of “negative” list of don’ts for the OTT platforms like Netflix and Hotstar. However, sensing the government’s take and seriousness, OTT platforms in India created a self-regulatory body to show their commitment to content screening, albeit Amazon decided not to be a part of it.
The government, however, refused to support to the code.
With the latest move of regulating OTT players and online news channels, government has indirectly passed a strict warning to every company.
It would be interesting to see how the OTT players react to such move and if the government live upto their commitment of media freedom.