Digital current affairs and news portals along with online content providers such as Netflix and Hotstar have been brought under the wings of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the Central government revealed in an order yesterday. Sharing the news on the micro-blogging site Twitter, renowned journalist Vasudha Venugopal wrote, “This is big. OTT platforms and Digital News platforms are under I&B Ministry now. Now, the ministry gets the power to regulate policies for OTT platforms. I&B had written to MeitY about this transfer of control.” Currently, there is no independent authority to oversee the digital content in the country.
This is big. OTT platforms and Digital News platforms are under I&B Ministry now. Now, the ministry gets the power to regulate policies for OTT platforms. I&B had written to MeitY about this transfer of control. pic.twitter.com/99FOcydGyK
— Vasudha Venugopal (@vasudha_ET) November 11, 2020
A notification issued by the cabinet secretariat stated that “films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers and news and current affairs content on online platforms” shall be included in the ‘India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961. The news comes a few days after the Supreme Court sought Centre’s response on a PIL seeking regulation on OTT platforms by an autonomous body. A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian issued notices to the central government, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Internet and Mobile Association of India, reported India TV.
“With cinemas theatres unlikely to open anytime soon in the country, OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board,” the plea stated. None of the OTT/Streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting since February 2020, it added. Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had said last year that “the government will not take any step that may curb media freedom”. He did however suggest some kind of regulation for OTT platforms. “I have sought suggestions on how to deal with this because there are regular feature films coming on OTT – good, bad, and ugly. So how to deal with this, who should monitor, who should regulate. There is no certification body for OTT platforms and likewise news portals also,” Javadekar said at the time.