The government has brought online mediums, including films and news content, under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. According to the amendment order signed by President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday (9th November, 2020), the I&B ministry will regulate online audio-visual programmes and current affairs content.
The Union ministry headed by Prakash Javadekar will now regulate OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotstar. OTT, or over-the-top platforms, are audio and video hosting and streaming services which started out as content hosting platforms, but soon branched out into the production and the release of short movies, feature films, documentaries and web-series.
The print media looks after the Press Council of India (PCI) while the television news channels come under News Broadcasters Association (NBA). The content of the advertisements is regulated by Advertising Standards Council of India and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors films, but at present, there has been no law or autonomous body governing digital content or Over-the-top (OTT) platforms. Last month, the Supreme Court sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL). This PIL was for regulating OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video by an autonomous body. The PIL stated that digital content on these platforms is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening. This was heard by a bench of two justices: Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice V Ramasubramanian. They had issued notices to the Central Government, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and Internet and Mobile Association of India(IAMAI). The plea alleged that the self-regulation provided by the I&B ministry since February 2020 has been signed by none of the OTT/streaming platforms which included Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar. These OTT platforms have often chosen to produce movies and documentaries on politically sensitive but relevant topics and are likely to resist any plans to censor the content being provided and streamed by them. It will also have to be seen as to what guidelines, if any, does the I&B ministry put in place for regulating these OTT platforms.