The Central Government has issued an order bringing Online or digital News / Media, films and audio-visual programmes such as Netflix, news and current affairs under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B).
Internet censorship, and heavy content moderation were the primary target of Centre since last year, based on rules for the cyber world. Though these OTT platforms fall under the IT Act, but there has been no such self- legislation or autonomous physique to govern digital content material.
On Wednesday, the notification was announced via a gazette. The statement declared that the President had signed the order to include online films, digital news and current affairs content under the purview of the Ministry of I&B headed by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar.
The Press Council of India monitors the print media, the Information Broadcasters Affiliation (NBA) controls news channels, the Promoting Requirements Council of India is for promoting, and the Central Board of Movie Certification (CBFC) takes care of movies.
The Supreme Court had last month sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body. The PIL stated that digital content on platforms like Amazon Prime Videos, Netflix etc are made available to the public widely without any filter or screening.
A bench including Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had issued notices to the Central Government, Ministry of I&B and Internet and Mobile Association of India(IAMAI).
None of the OTT/streaming platforms above mentioned have signed the self-regulation provided by the I&B ministry since February 2020, the plea had alleged.
OTT platforms include digital news portals and also streaming services are accessible over the internet or ride on an operator’s network.
These OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms allowed filmmakers and artists to release their content without filtration and clearance certificate for their films and series from the censor board, the petition said.
From now on, digital content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5 and Hotstar will be regulated by the Union ministry of I&B.
Back in 2019, Mr Javadekar had stated that the PM Modi-led government wouldn’t take any step that may curb media freedom. He also said that there should be some regulation on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, as there is for the print and electronic media and films as well.
Internet Censorship In India
Government of India has been emphasising upon guidelines for social media platforms and online content for a while now. The regulations primarily intent on stopping the misuse of social media and preventing the spread of fake news.
Why Internet censorship?
Internet censorship is primarily to stop platforms from showing content that is banned by Indian courts or disrespectful to the national emblem and flag. It is also concerned about content that outrages religious sentiments, promotes terrorism or violence against the nation and shows child pornography.
However, most social media and OTT companies claimed that such regulations are a threat to freedom of speech. As a solution, leading online video streaming players including Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Arre, SonyLIV, and ALTBalaji agreed to sing a voluntary censorship code to regulate video streaming content in January 2019.
Some players who were reportedly against the code include Amazon, Facebook and Google, feared that this initiative would set a “dangerous” example for restricting freedom.
Meanwhile, the current move considering the prevailing situation of rising religious atrocities, riots with online media, OTTP and Streaming platforms ready to add fire by merely focusing on reaping benefits will tone down such acts.
With regulations on the digital news portal and other platforms, the freedom of press and speech is now under question.