Media, content creators await standard regulations for OTT

  • The right way forward would be to create a framework of standard practices that would be common to all platforms and settle on a denominator acceptable to all, experts said

Lata Jha
First Published25 Nov 2020, 06:05 PM IST
Digital audio-visual content, including films and web shows on over-the-top streaming platforms, as well as news and current affairs on online platforms have come under the purview of the ministry of information and broadcasting.. Photo Imaging: Kishore Rawat
Digital audio-visual content, including films and web shows on over-the-top streaming platforms, as well as news and current affairs on online platforms have come under the purview of the ministry of information and broadcasting.. Photo Imaging: Kishore Rawat

NEW DELHI: Streaming platform executives and content creators in India hope that bringing digital news and OTT (over-the-top) services under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will not mean censorship of any form of creative expression.

Earlier this month, with a gazette notification signed by the President, the digital audio-visual content, including films and web shows on over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms, as well as news and current affairs on online platforms came under the purview of the ministry of information and broadcasting.

Speaking at Fast Track Digital, a knowledge series organised by Ficci, Tarun Katial, CEO at ZEE5 said “A lot of people are assuming this will mean regulation by the ministry but the MIB has always made public statements on how it believes in self-regulation by platforms. It has been supportive of diversity of content unless it borders on pornography.”

Katial was speaking at the session on Digital Content Regulation: Learning from Best Global Practices.

Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player said the right way forward would be to create a framework of standard practices that would be common to all platforms and settle on a denominator acceptable to all. It is equally important for audiences to be aware of these definitions, streaming executives said. For instance, not too many people currently know the difference between U (suitable for all age groups) and U/A (requiring parental guidance for children below the age of 12) certification.

“It’s only a matter of time before we come up with these standards,” Bedi said.

Speaking at another session, Justice Pratibha M Singh, judge at the Delhi High Court said that the convergence of free-to-air broadcasting, pay television, DTR to OTT, shows that there is a need for the creation of an independent adjudicatory mechanism.

"If media and content creators have to remain free and fair, they ought to involve free and fair adjudicatory mechanisms, which are not coercive in nature,” Justice Singh said adding that there also needs to be a method where broadcasters are a part of the adjudicatory mechanisms to ensure the code of conduct is compulsorily applicable to all broadcasters without exception.

“OTT and VoD platforms and other creative content providers should also be a part of this mechanism. Such a system would also protect and preserve the rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India by effectively providing for reasonable restrictions. This would also minimize the need for legislative and judicial interference in issues relating to content,” she added.

According to a survey by British market research and data analytics firm YouGov, nearly two-thirds (64%) of urban Indians support (either strongly or somewhat) the government’s decision of bringing digital content including films, web series as well as online news under the ambit of the MIB.

Only a small number (13%) said they oppose this move, while 22% are unsure of their decision. Majority feel online content includes a lot of inappropriate content for children (56%). Many find depiction of violence and bloodshed (48%) and nudity and strong language (44%) in certain kinds of content concerning.

However, many expect gloomy outcomes such as restriction of access to the global or niche content (31%), increase in piracy of movies or series (23%), decrease in the viewership and deterioration of the quality of content (20% each). The survey was conducted online among around 1001 respondents in India in November.

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First Published:25 Nov 2020, 06:05 PM IST
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