Unanswered questions as regulation of OTT platforms and digital news providers moves from one government department to another
- Regulation of OTT platforms and digital news providers will now fall under the gambit of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry instead of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY).
- With the winter session of parliament right around the corner, many are nervous that this could indicate more than just the changing of the guard.
- Here are the burning unanswered questions that the online community is wondering about.
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Aside from the changing of the guard, the government is yet to shed light on what it actually means for the OTT channel and news content curators themselves. One can only assume that a new regulatory framework will be put in place to address the challenges that have cropped in recent years. The winter session of Parliament is also right around the corner.
“Although there is little to no clarity about what this entails for different types of intermediaries, platform and content creators, it portends a regime with more interference from the Ministry of I&B and less reliance on self-regulation by the OTT platforms extending the censorship heavy legacy to the Internet,” technology lawyer and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) told Business Insider.
Despite the ambiguity, Internet Freedom Foundation chair and founder of SaveTheInternet Raman Chima, also believes that this is more than just a reorganisation of departments. “It does indicate government intent. That is definitely worrying. This change was made without any proper public consultation,” he explained on Twitter.
Here are some of the unanswered questions around what the change in regulations could mean for OTT platforms and news content providers:
- Will the government be holding a discussion with stakeholders before implementing new regulations?
- Will the new regulations be on par with current regulations currently in place?
- How will user-generated content be regulated on platforms like YouTube, Facebook and others?
- How will digital news media be defined? Will personal channels like Dhruv Rathi and Akash Banerjee come under digital news media?
- Will every news organisation on the internet will have to register itself?
- Will this mean nobody can post on YouTube or Facebook if they’re not registered?
- Will there be a cap on subscriptions and memberships, or a minimum rate that can be charged?
- Is the government going to block any news outfit or OTT that’s not registered in India?
- Will content rules for OTT platforms now be the same as the ones for television channels?
- Will movies that release exclusively on the internet now require a certification from the licensing board?
The way news is disseminated is also diversifying. Publications have alerts on WhatsApp and Telegram, others have personalised newsletters, and most are spread across difficult mediums — from text to video to podcasts.
Individual states already have anti fake-news task forces within their ranks that have thus far proven ineffective, other than in cases on anti-government news deemed to be misleading.
Given the wide array of complications in implementing blanket regulations, the task will be nearly impossible to execute. So, what remains to be seen, is what the government’s intent is behind bringing a new regulatory authority for OTT platforms and news content providers.
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