The government has brought online news platforms and content providers under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). The government has issued a gazette notification for the same.
In a notification dated November 9, the President has approved the order to bring web films, digital news, etc. under I&B ministry headed by Prakash Javadekar.
Earlier, the OTT content came under the preview of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY). Henceforth, MIB will be regulating both TV as well as digital content. Similarly, online news portals were not covered under a regulatory framework, unlike their TV and print counterparts.
The move is seen as a precursor to the framing of content guidelines for OTT platforms on the lines of broadcasting.
The notification stated, "In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (3) of Article 77 of the Constitution, the President hereby makes the following rules further to amend the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, namely:-
1. (1) These rules may be called the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Three Hundred and Fifty-Seventh Amendment Rules, 2020. (2) They shall come into force at once.
In the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, in THE SECOND SCHEDULE, under the heading “MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING (SOOCHANA AUR PRASARAN MANTRALAYA)” after entry 22, the following sub-heading and entries shall be inserted, namely:-
VA. DIGITAL/ONLINE MEDIA 22A. Films and Audio-Visual programmes made available by online content providers. 22B. News and current affairs content on online platforms.”
In September, the government had disapproved of the self-regulatory model proposed by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) for the OTT platforms in India. In a letter to IAMAI, the MIB had said that it will not be supporting the proposed model while suggesting that IAMAI take a cue from self-regulatory models of Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC) and News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA).
It had also raised concerns about the lack of an independent third-party monitoring and a governing code of ethics of the model. It also informed IAMAI that the proposed mechanism does not clearly define prohibited content, and it also drew attention to the issue of conflict of interest at the second and third-tier level.
IAMAI's proposed model had suggested a two-tier structure chaired by a retired judge of SC or HC, with the Digital Curated Content Complaints Council (DCCCC) acting at the second level.
The government also said that there's no classification of the prohibited content and the advisory panel of the second tier comprises of Online Curated Content Providers(OCCPs) as opposed to an independent organisation like DCCP (which was proposed earlier). The ministry pointed out that the one independent member on the panel will therefore be in minority.
OCCPs such as Hotstar, Jio, Voot and SonyLIV had formed DCCCC in February this year following the government nudge to come up with a self-regulatory model.
Speaking at an online session at FICCI e-FRAMES in July 2020, MIB secretary Amit Khare had stated that the ministry was proposing to bring online content regulation under its ambit from MeitY. “OTT being a digital platform will fall under the purview of the Ministry of IT. We are proposing a decision that content should fall under the purview of I&B. Convergence of ministries is extremely necessary,” Khare had said.