The Modi government has decided to shift the streaming of content on OTT platforms under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting,headed by Prakash Javadekar.
Following to a notification received on Wednesday, November 09, 2020 that is signed by the President Ram Nath Kovind; the Cabinet Secretariat announced the subsequent change.
For now, the OTTs fall under the Ministry of Information and Technology and other forms of media namely print, film and television fall under the I&B Ministry. The digital platforms currently lack self regulation on the content, opposing to the government’s issuance of a “negative” list of don’ts for the online content streaming platforms. As the OTT platforms are free of any autonomous body governing their content, subscription rates, certification of adult movies, their content needs to be controlled, believes the centre.
Following the anticipation of the government’s rules, eight video streaming platforms changed their policies in October 2019 and self regulated to manage their content. The code involved five kinds of restrictions on the content being streamed. Content deliberately and maliciously disrespecting the national flag or the national emblem, content having visual or storyline promoting child pornography, content that maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments,
content that deliberately or maliciously encourages terrorism, content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or court.
Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and other digital streaming platforms saw a huge jump in their subscriptions during the lockdown and a lot of production houses released their movies directly on these platforms as the theatres remained closed in the view of CoVid-19.The step taken by the Union government is going to heavily stir the audience ofthese platforms.
Is it a boon or a bane?
The notification regarding the regulation of the OTTs being controlled by the centre has received mixed reactions.
While some experts believe this decision might restrict the creative freedom that the online platforms are enjoying, some consider it to be a good decision to keep a check on the objectionable content these OTTs are streaming.
“When any sector comes under regulation, it becomes a limitation for the sector”,said N.Chandramouli, CEO, TRA, a consumer analytics and brand insights company.
Anything that does not appeal to the current authority is censored and that is not right for the industry. Digital platforms started streaming content online to have a creative liberty and to not be restricted by any kind of regulations.If the audience doesn’t approve of the content after the censorship, it will go to places like Torrent to find uncensored content which will in turn lead to
degradation in the number of subscriptions for the OTTs.
“OTT platforms have been running substantially well in India and there was no need for it to be regulated,” added Chandramouli.However, a research analyst Karan Taurani says that this move will not bring censorship to the OTT platforms but will only create a framework to regulate the streaming content.
Sanjay Bachani, Founder, Film Karavan, said, "In India, it is important to keep sensitive content in check. So, it might be a good thing that OTT platforms will come under the ministry of Information and Broadcasting, but overall we don’t know to what extent these rules will get in the way of telling stark stories authentically.
This is why the experts believe the OTTs need to stay unregulated as it will restrict the creative freedom once the over regulations are imposed. Supporting the idea Hemant Mehta, Managing Director and Chief Strategy Officer insights Division, Kantar said, "the current notification would not lead to video content being reviewed and certified – as censorship narrows the creative freedom as well as the expanse of subjects and stories that can be narrated.”