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Self-regulation of OTT

  • Posted By
    10Pointer
  • Categories
    Miscellaneous
  • Published
    20th Feb, 2021
  • Context

    Seventeen online streaming providers have announced the adoption of an ‘implementation toolkit’, under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). This ‘toolkit’ is in furtherance to the Universal Self-Regulation Code that IAMAI had introduced in September 2020, which was rejected by the Government.

    Furthermore, on 16th February 2021, the Supreme Court asked the Centre on the measures it plans to take to regulate content on over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

  • Introduction:

    • OTT, or over-the-top platforms, are audio and video hosting and streaming services that 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 to users the content they are likely to view based on their past viewership on the platform.
    • India is projected to become the second-largest online video-viewing audience by 2020.
  • What are the laws regulating OTT platforms?

    • So far in India, there are no comprehensive 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.
  • What is the ‘Implementation Toolkit’ About?

    • The ‘toolkit’, prepared by IAMAI in consultation with the streaming platforms, primarily aims to iron out the issues with the industry’s self-regulation code that was put in motion on 4 September 2020.
    • The toolkit provides details of the functioning of OTT platforms’ grievance redressal mechanism for complaints received, including the composition of their internal panel and advisory panels.
    • The new “implementation toolkit” is said to have followed the ethics code and also defined a framework for self-regulation.
  • Ethical Issues Involved in regulation of OTT:

    1. Unequal treatment of similar service providers
      • While the print was regulated by the Press Council of India and Television (both News and Entertainment) were being regulated by the Cable Networks Regulation Act (2005), content on online, fell into a black hole with no oversight.
      • Though there is no regulatory mechanism for OTTs as of now, all such platforms come under the Information technology Act, 2000 as they qualify to be called as Intermediaries.
      • Section 79 of the IT Act, intermediaries must exercise due diligence while streaming content. The Guidelines for due diligence have also been framed by the government in 2011.
    2. Age-appropriate content is needed to ensure well being -
      • OTT platforms' advantage of playing media anywhere and anytime has created a massive demand for it, but also creates the problem of providing age-appropriate content for Children. If children are subjected to violent or malicious content, it can lead to various psychological issues in the future.
    3. Influence of foreign content on society
      • With the increasing presence of OTT platforms, they are streaming a lot of cross-cultural content.
      • Though it is good for creating a cosmopolitan world, it has aggravated some of the means in society like cultural imperialism.
    4. Regulation if becomes over-regulation can curb creativity and in turn freedom of speech and expression
      • As OTT platforms are relatively less subjected to censorship, it helps bring socio-political content or matters to a common man, which otherwise are censored in mainstream media.
  • Why Self-regulation better than Government regulation?

    • It has been argued that OTT platforms provide people the right to choose whatever they want to see, thus regulation by the Government may be unnecessary.
    • The OTT industry has led to the Democratisation of Media and is benefiting numerous content producers and artists. It also helps in accessing regional films around the country as well as globally.
    • Creative freedom is necessary to provide unbiased information to millions of citizens about the situation of the country, thus indirectly demanding transparency and accountability from the Government.
  • Is self-regulation enough?

    • The issue of content regulation has always been important in India because of the diverse nature of Indian society in terms of religion, economic status, caste and language.
    • Therefore, the effect that OTT has on society forms the basis of its regulation by the state.
    • Article 19 which gives a fundamental right to freedom of expression comes with reasonable restrictions of decency and public morality, public order, defamation, incitement to offenses, etc.
    • In times of fast-changing entertainment media, the government and other stakeholders must come together to bring a proper framework that will balance the freedom of expression and necessary restrictions for the sake of law and order.
    • Other countries of the world such as China and the USA have come forward to devise laws in the wake of progress in artificial intelligence and Internet-of-things. India with its huge diversity and demographic nature cannot remain behind.
  • Conclusion

    Internet usage has been growing in India, becoming a marketplace for ideas, an opportunity for content creators to reach more people than ever before, and a new medium for entertainment and education. In light of this, both the government and the industry should appreciate the new space that the internet has given to free speech in India and, as a result of it, the need to adopt a more self-regulatory and freedom-oriented regulatory approach.