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MP Babul Supriyo on OTT streaming regulation: no ‘unlimited freedom’ anymore

In a telling interview with Bollywood Hungama, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament Babul Supriyo said that streaming services would no longer have “unlimited freedom” on the content they made. Supriyo was speaking on behalf of the government, Bollywood Hungama said. He told the website, “The only thing is, the freedom won’t be unlimited. You won’t be allowed to go on an abusive binge like [in the TV show] Mirzapur. Who swears this much at every opportunity?” Supriyo added that age restrictions would be placed on such content.

His remarks come as the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting gains administrative authority over TV shows and films on streaming services, a likely precursor to regulation. Supriyo is the Minister of State at the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, for which the Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar holds the cabinet position. Supriyo’s statement is among the growing drumbeat of the government’s statements on regulating streaming services in India. BJP MP Dr. Vikas Mahatme raised the issue in Parliament in September, and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal earlier said that content on Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms “cannot be allowed to resonate indiscriminately” in India.

Supriyo added in his interview that he would like better age-gating on streaming services to prevent content targeted at adults from being consumed by minors. All the major curated OTT streaming platforms have already committed to having parental controls on their services, and most already do. Additionally, streaming services are already subject to content regulations set out in the Information Technology Act, 2000 and its amendments. So it is unclear what Supriyo is asking for — perhaps the government wants a South Korea-style regime where content rated for adults can only be seen after users verify their age with their mobile number.

In any case, one thing is clear: most streaming services have come together for a self-regulation code that they all can get behind, but the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has refused to bless it. Even though streaming services largely censor themselves very frequently upon government requests or outrage from viewers, it seems that the government is keen on pursuing some sort of regulation in the months that will follow.

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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