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Explained: What OTT platforms coming under IB ministry means for Netflix and others

The move to bring the OTT platforms under the I&B ministry could also mean that these platforms would have to apply for approval of the content they wish to stream. This in itself is likely to give rise to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored in India.

Written by Aashish Aryan , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: November 19, 2020 11:26:19 am
Netflix, Netflix under I & B, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Information and Broadcasting ministry, Information and Broadcasting ministry netflix, Information and Broadcasting ministry streaming services, Information and Broadcasting ministry news websitesThis file photo shows a logo for Netflix on a remote control (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

The government has brought video streaming over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Hotstar, and others under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. These platforms were so far under the purview of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

With a market size of nearly Rs 500 crore at the end of March 2019, the online video streaming platforms may become a Rs 4000-crore revenue market by the end of 2025, according to reports. At the end of 2019, India had as many as 17 crore OTT platform users.

What are OTT platforms?

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 release of short movies, feature films, documentaries and web-series themselves.

These platforms offer a range of content and use artificial intelligence to suggest users the content they are likely to view based on their past viewership on the platform. Most OTT platforms generally offer some content for free and charge a monthly subscription fee for premium content which is generally unavailable elsewhere.

The premium content is usually produced and marketed by the OTT platform themselves, in association with established production houses which historically have made feature films.

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What are the laws regulating OTT platforms?

So far in India, there are no laws or rules regulating OTT platforms as it is a relatively new medium of entertainment. Unlike television, print or radio, which follow guidelines released by governments, OTT platforms, classified as digital media or social media, had little to no regulation on the choice of content they offered, the subscription rates, certification for adult movies and others.

In India, the regulation of such platforms has been widely debated and discussed. Following pressure to regulate the content being made available on these streaming platforms, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), a representative body of the OTT platforms had proposed a self-regulatory model.

The Online Curated Content Providers or OCCPs had also proposed a Digital Curated Content Complaints Council along with the self-regulatory mechanism as a part of its proposed two-tier structure. The proposal, however, was shot down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which will now oversee these platforms. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

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What happens now to the OTT platforms?

With the government deciding to bring films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” as well as “news and current affairs content on online platforms”, the first challenge before the OTT platforms would be keeping a check on their content.

The central government’s move to bring the OTT platforms under the I&B Ministry could also mean that these platforms would have to apply for certification and approval of the content they wish to stream. This in itself could give rise to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored by the certification boards in India.

OTT platforms are likely to resist any plans to censor the content being provided and streamed by them as these platforms have often chosen to produce movies and documentaries on politically sensitive but relevant topics. 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.

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