Content on OTT platforms like Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon Prime, etc will now come under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. President Ram Nath Kovind has approved a new amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961, that brings the following into Govt. jurisdiction:
- Digital / Online Media
- Films and Audio-Visual programmes made available by online content providers.
- News and current affairs content on online platforms.
This is meant to enable a “regulatory environment so that all digital players adhere to the laws of the land. Some content on certain platforms has caused a lot of problems to the citizens of the country who don’t even have a grievance redressal platform. There have been at least 40 court cases where the government had to make an appearance. Courts have also urged the ministry to have a regulatory mechanism. We have been working on that with stakeholders,” says a top official in the ministry.
Earlier this year, eight of the major OTT players had come together to create a self-regulatory code of conduct. This forbade 5 types of content:
- content that deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag
- any visual or storyline that promotes child pornography
- any content that “maliciously” intends to outrage religious sentiments
- content that “deliberately and maliciously” promotes or encourages terrorism
- any content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or court.
The government had refused to accept this code.
“Self-regulation has historically been the best way forward in this sphere. This move will have to be weighed in light of Article 19 of the Constitution of India. If implemented without reasonable restrictions this can harm the journalistic and artistic freedom,” remarks Kaushik Moitra, Partner at Bharucha & Partners.