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Guidelines and directives “almost ready” for OTT streaming regulation: Prakash Javadekar

Guidelines to govern streaming platforms are “almost ready”, Minister of Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar said in a minute-long statement in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. Javadekar said:

“The issue raised by Mahesh Poddar-ji on OTT platforms is very important. Everyday, we receive both suggestions and complaints on the subject. Guidelines and directives are almost ready, and they will be put in place soon.”

The remarks are the clearest assertion by the government so far that they are prepared to take a harder line on regulating streaming services if they don’t agree to the government’s demands on self-regulation. Javadekar sidestepped questions on OTT regulation in written parliamentary responses this month in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, choosing instead to make an announcement on impending guidelines in person.

Written answers by Ministry on OTT regulation

In the Lok Sabha, Biju Janata Dal MP Pinaki Misra asked the following question, and received a response from Javadekar that did not rise to the level of promising regulation from the government, as opposed to letting the industry self-regulate:

Will the Minister of INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING be pleased to state:-

(a) the estimated number of users and market size of Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms in the country;

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(b) Whether the Government is aware of the facts that content/web series aired on OTT platforms is full of sex, violence, abuse, vulgarity and disrespect to religious sentiments and if so, the reaction of the Government thereto along with complaints received in this regard so far sate/UT-wise;

(c) the current procedure and penalty under law for violation of religious sentiments by OTT platforms;

(d) whether the Government rejected the self regulation guidelines developed by OTT platform and streaming services and if so, the reasons therefore;

(e) whether the Government has any proposal to bring in new regulation laws or constitute a regulatory authority for censoring OTT platforms in order to address the issue of sensitive, objectionable, vulgarity, obscene, fake video contents, if so; the details thereof and the time line fixed for the purpose; and

(f) whether the Government has initiated any consultation process with the concerned stakeholders in this regard and if so, the details thereof?

ANSWER: THE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, FOREST AND CLIMATE CHANGE; MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING; AND MINISTER OF HEAVY INDUSTRIES AND PUBLIC ENTGERPRISES {SHRI PRAKASH JAVADEKAR}

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(a): It has been reported that there are about 40 Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms presently operating in the country.

(b) to (f): The Government has received several grievances/complaints regarding content of programmes on OTT platforms. The Government also has held several consultations with the OTT players, including with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) impressing upon them the need for having an appropriate self-regulatory mechanism for content over OTT platforms. In August, 2020, the IAMAI had informed the Ministry that a self-regulatory mechanism had been developed for the OTT platforms. On examination it was felt that the mechanism proposed by IAMAI did not give adequate cognizance to content prohibited under law and there were issues of conflict of interest, which were communicated to IAMAI in September, 2020.

The Central Government has vide notification dated 9.11.2020 amended the Allocation of Business Rules and the subject relating to content of news and current affairs and audio-visual content on online platforms has been brought in the mandate of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The following MPs associated themselves with the question: Annasaheb Shankar Jolle, Tejasvi Surya, Manoj Kishorbhai Kotak, Dean Kuriakose, Ravindra Shyamnarayan (aka Ravi Kishan Shukla), Subrata Pathak, Bheemrao Baswanthrao Patil, Vishnu Dutt Sharma, Su Thirunavukkarasar, Shobha Karandlaje, Manoj Rajoria, Kapil Moreshwar Patil, Prathap Simha, Raksha Nikhil Khadse, Gangasandra Siddappa Basavaraj, Rajendra Agrawal,Ram Shankar Katheriam, Ravneet Singh, Basanta Kumar Panda and, Nayab Singh.

In the Rajya Sabha, Javadekar provided the following answers to questions Members Lingaiah Yadav and Syed Nasir Hussain, belonging to the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and BJP respectively:

Question 1: Will the Minister of INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING be pleased to state :-

(a) whether Government proposes to monitor “Over The Top” (OTT) platforms or video streaming service providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others under the ambit with framing of proper laws or autonomous body governing digital content which were un-regulated till now;
(b) if so, the details thereof and present status thereof along with laws regulated/amended in this regard; and
(c) the violations noticed in implementation/action taken thereon so far and if not, the reasons therefor?

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ANSWER: (a) to (c) The Government has received several representations regarding content of programmes on Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms. The Government also has held several consultations with the OTT players, including with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) impressing upon them the need for having an appropriate self-regulatory mechanism for content over OTT platforms.  The Central Government has vide notification dated 9.11.2020 amended the Allocation of Business Rules and the subject relating to content of news and current affairs and audio-visual content on online platforms has been brought in the mandate of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Question 2: Will the Minister of INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING be pleased to state:

(a) Whether Government has set up a mechanism to regulate the content of Over The Top (OTT) platform; and
(b) if so, the details thereof?

ANSWER: (a) & (b) The Government has received several representations regarding content of programmes on Over-the-Top (OTT) platforms. The Government also has held several consultations with the OTT players, including with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) impressing upon them the need for having an appropriate selfregulatory mechanism for content over OTT platforms.

The Central Government has vide notification dated 9.11.2020 amended the Allocation of Business Rules and the subject relating to content of news and current affairs and audio-visual content on online platforms has been brought in the mandate of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

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