Digital/Online media has been brought under the purview of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The Second Schedule of the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules has been amended to include following entries viz. Films and Audio-Visual programmes ,News and current affairs content.
Digital/Online Media would include Films and Audio-Visual programmes, news and current affairs contents. This means News Channels and OTT platforms, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc and online news portals are brought under the control of the Ministry.
In the Sudarshan TV matter before the Supreme Court, the Centre had highlighted the lack of regulation on the web based digital media. Centre had submitted that it is necessary to lay down guidelines for the”web based digital media” which includes “web magazines” and “web-based news channels” and “web-based news-papers” as the same not only has a very wide reach but is completely uncontrolled.
Other subjects which are under the purview of the Ministry are Broadcasting Policy And Administration, Cable Television Policy, Radio, Doordarshan, Films, Advertising And Visual Publicity, Press, Publications, Research And Reference etc.
On Monday, the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Three Hundred and Fifty Seventh Amendment Rules, 2020, were notified to include Digital/Online media related entries.
News Channels and OTT Platform Industries’ take on this new amendment
Some News Channels and OTT Platforms Industries mentioned that the move is welcome as there will be greater clarity over the jurisdiction of such content. “Earlier, there was no clarity over content aired by either digital news or video steaming platforms, but this brings more clarity”.
But some News Channels and OTT Platforms sources also noted the hidden threat of more government intervention.
In television broadcasting, there is the inter-ministerial committee and the content is guided by self-regulatory platforms such as the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, said a second source.
But OCCPs have so far failed to arrive at a regulatory consensus that is also acceptable to the government. Now, there will be pressure to finalise this self-regulation.
“So if the stakeholders do not come up with a set of self-regulation guidelines, the ministry is now empowered to intervene and come up with its own code for digital media platforms, which may not be palatable and could be draconian.”
“So if a self-regulation code is not implemented at the earliest, the ministry is empowered to step in,” the News Channels and OTT Platforms sources said.
The notification will also allow the government now to take suo moto action on a specific content which is not to its liking, or may have the potential of creating a law and order problem, or is ‘obscene’, or may affect relations with neighbouring countries, said the News Channels and OTT Platforms sources.
“However, the point remains that if you cannot properly monitor 940 television channels through EMMC (Electronic Media Monitoring Centre), how do you monitor the internet content which is borderless and limitless?” the source asked.