The review of OTT-related regulation has been prompted by several complaints that range from adult and objectionable content to regular run-ins between BJP supporters and party members and producer and platforms over alleged “misrepresentation” of religious, cultural and social issues and themes.
With India emerging at one of the largest consumers of OTT content and fastest growing market in 2020, an analysis being studied by the government underlines that regulation of digital media, including OTT platforms and intermediaries is a global trend. In India, in particular, the need for regulation, is prompted by the need for a level playing field for content across platforms, an idea also considered by the Shashi Tharoor-led parliamentary panel on information technology. The committee also considered similar issues with members pointing to regulations in other countries.
Official sources pointed out that the committee discussed why TV channels must adhere to a programme and content code, and print media be regulated by a Press Council while there is no regulation for OTT platforms and the content they stream. The government, sources said, also examined the near redundancy of the IT Act, 2000, and the “misuse” of safe-harbor protection offered under the act to significant social media intermediaries like Facebook and Twitter that have “censor(ed) and regulate(ed) content on social media”.
A note said Australia has taken the lead in ensuring that revenue earned by websites like Google and Facebook through advertising on news websites is shared with newspaper publishers. “We can bring about a discussion as to the unfair advertising practices on these intermediaries and how this is causing an adverse impact on the indigenous newspaper industry,” the note said.
Singapore has a Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the EU is considering recommendations of the European Council in 2019. The Indian government remains concerned by the possibility of problematic content leading to social unrest or a law and order situation. Arguing in favour of the need for regulation, the government assessment has also batted for the need to “streamline” the setting up websites and OTT platforms to rein in “fly by night operators”.