In a move to strengthen its hold over online news and content carried on OTT providers, the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry has brought these entities under its ambit.
The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, was issued on Monday. Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content. The government could not regulate online content earlier because these platforms do not require any certifications as they don’t come under the Cinematograph Act of 1952.
The notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat has amended the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 by inserting two new entries – 22A and 22B – to the Second Schedule of the Rules.
The two new entries are as follows:
- Films and audio visual programmes made available by online content providers
- News and current affairs on online platforms.
OTT platforms include news portals and also streaming services such as Hotstar, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which are accessible over the internet or ride on an operator’s network.
The development was announced in a gazette notification on Wednesday. The notification declared that the President has signed the order to include online films, digital news and current affairs content under the purview of the I&B Ministry headed by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar.
The development comes despite the secretary of the ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY), Amit Khare, having emphasised that the OTT platforms should come together and impose a self-regulation model, which will not require any intervention from the government’s side.
The Supreme Court had last month sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video by an autonomous body.
The PIL stated that digital content on these platforms is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening.
A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had issued notices to the central government, I&B Ministry and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
None of the OTT/streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the I&B ministry since February 2020, the plea had alleged.
Reacting to the government’s move, a ministry official told ET, that the decision was taken to ensure a level playing field for all media, and bring an “enabling regulatory environment so that all digital players adhere to the laws of the land.”