In a major development that may have far-reaching impact on video-streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and others as well as digital news sites, the government has brought content on these platforms under the purview of the ministry of information and broadcasting.
In an executive order, the government amended the Allocation of Business Rules and said “films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” and “news and current affairs content on online platforms” will be brought under the I&B ministry.
This is the first time the ministry is getting into the digital space.
A ministry official said that it was to ensure a “level playing field” for all media facilitating an appropriate regulatory mechanism, including self-regulation by the news portals and OTT platforms. At present, the entertainment channels on television are regulated under the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and films by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. OTT content is completely unregulated, he said.
“Some shows on certain platforms with their obscenity have caused a lot of problems to the citizens 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,” a top official in the ministry said. “Courts have also urged the ministry to have a regulatory mechanism. We have been working on that with stakeholders,” the official said.
Industry experts feel that the move will curb freedom of expression.
However, industry sources cited above said that self-regulation mandated by the government made little sense.