The ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) has decided to set up a model for the certification of online video streaming content after Diwali amid discontent among religious groups regarding the same. Last month, I&B minister Prakash Javadekar had met members of the film industry and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) at the film industry meet.
At the meeting, he announced that the I&B ministry, along with the ministry for electronics and information technology (MeitY), had decided to organise a meeting with stakeholders — representatives from OTT platforms, members of civil society, the technical community, media, ISPs, and legal expert— to discuss regulations and certification of the online content.
However, the government cannot regulate online content as video streaming platforms do not come under the Cinematograph Act of 1952. Therefore, these OTT platforms do not require certification from CFBC or any other body.
In a response to public interest litigation (PIL), the Karnataka High Court, in March, had issued a notice seeking these video streaming platform to be brought under the act. The Karnataka High Court had also urged the ministry to speed up the action on online content.
To ensure streaming platforms voluntarily adopted a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices, nine OTT platforms had adopted a “self-regulation” policy under the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), earlier this year. These platforms included Netflix, ALTBalaji, Hotstar, Voot, ZEE5, Arre, SonyLIV, Reliance Jio and Eros Now.
Shows Created ‘Suspicion And Distrust’ For Hinduism?
The stress on the regulation of online content comes after some religious groups had expressed their concerns over Netflix’s original series Leila. According to the religious groups, the show has created “suspicion and distrust” for Hinduism and “maligned its symbols”.
Besides Leila, the religious organisations have also been unhappy about Zee5’s The Final Call and Kafir, and Netflix’s opinion-based comedy talk show The Patriot Act hosted by comedian Hasan Minhaj, who, in his show, had talked about the Indian Lok Sabha Elections 2019 and the Kashmir Issue.
According to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report 2019, paid video subscribers grew from around 7 million in 2017 to 12-15 million in 2018, while video subscription revenues grew almost four times in 2018 to ₹13.4 billion.
With the government looking forward to regulating the online content, the real problem is not just limited to the OTT platforms, but for the viewers who pay to watch unfiltered quality content online, as well.