Context: 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.
More on the news: These platforms were so far under the purview of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India.
About the OTT platforms:
- These are audio and video hosting and streaming services which started out as content hosting platforms.
- These platforms are now 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.
- According to reports, with a market size of nearly Rs 500 crore in 2019, the online video streaming platforms may become a Rs 4000-crore revenue market by the end of 2025.
- At the end of 2019, India had as many as 17 crore OTT platform users.
Benefits of OTT Platforms:
- Creative content: These platforms help bring socio-political content or matters to a common man, which otherwise are censored in mainstream media.
- On demand hybrid content:
- These platforms combine the passive consumption mode of television and the consumer choice of the web.
- Hence, the advantage of playing media anywhere and anytime has created a massive demand for it.
- A new life to traditional media: Especially in the post-Covid era, due to social distancing becoming a norm in the society.
- Better access: The industry is benefiting numerous content producers and artists. It also helps in accessing regional films around the country as well as globally.
- Little or no regulation: While traditional media in India are regulated under specific laws - Films are regulated under the Cinematograph Act of 1952; The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, there is no such specific law for regulation of content over OTT platforms.
- Hence, the content on OTT platforms can disrupt social harmony and moral fabric of society.
- No consensus of self regulation:
- OTT platforms had signed a self-regulation code under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India.
- However, there’s no consensus on the code amongst the various OTT platforms operating in India.
- Digital Curated Content Complaints Council: The Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs) had proposed this council but was shot down by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which will now oversee these platforms.
- Cultural imperialism: OTT platforms 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 the society like cultural imperialism.
Possible impact of recent changes:
- A check on their content: The first challenge before the OTT platforms would be keeping a check on their content.
- Apply for certification and approval of the content: This could lead to many conflicts as most OTT platforms have content that could otherwise be censored by the certification boards in India.
- Censorship: 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.
Therefore the guidelines that the I&B ministry will put in place should regulate these OTT platforms, without censoring genuine content.