Explained: The New OTT Regulations

The OTT or Over Top Platforms are the media services. They enable the audience to consume their favourite TV shows and films via streaming on an app or website. For Example- Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, MX Player, Hulu, Alt Balaji etc. It emerges as an alternative to the traditional broadcasting ways like DTH and cable TVs. It is not wrong to mention that they are close to replacing the cable and satellite TV. Earlier, the streaming platforms initiated as a hosting platform that bought movies and shows from their creators and streamed them on their platform or website. Later, OTT platforms started producing their original content. 

The OTT platforms are quite specific with their content being internet-oriented only. The content is generally unavailable anywhere else. One needs a proper internet connection and compatible hardware, be it a mobile phone or laptop or tablet or smart TV to access the content on the OTT platforms. Maybe this could be the reason behind the outrageous popularity of the streaming platform among internet users all over the globe. In fact, in times of pandemic, the OTT platforms raised as a boon for all the content consumers and creators, when all the movie theatres were closed. 

The New OTT Regulations

As the popularity of OTT platforms gained pace, the need for regulations came into the scenario. In the year 2020, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting opened its umbrella for the OTT platforms and digital news websites. However, there was no particular regulatory body to screen or filter the content of these platforms. In 2019, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) came up with a self-regulatory framework which was all that OTT platforms had in the name of the regulation. It prohibited content that promoted child pornography, disrespects the national emblem or flag, any outrageous content hurting sentiments or promoting terrorism. But truly, it proved to be a failure as there was no defined regulatory body and codes. In fact, it did not classify the content that was prohibited. 

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So, this year the government took the responsibility into its hands and came up with New IT Rules 2021. It also included the regulations for the OTT platforms. Read the article to know more about the OTT regulations. 

  1. Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms must classify their online content into 5 categories, based on the age- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+ and finally A (Adult). 
  2. Parental Lock: The streaming platforms are advised to implement a parental lock feature on the content classified under U/A 13+ and higher. They must also form a secure framework for the correct verification of the age, especially for content classified under A (Adult). 
  3. Display Rating: The content creators shall display the classification rating for each content. They must also come up with a content descriptor that will inform the user about the nature of the content. It is all-important so that a user can make an informed decision of whether to consume content or not. 

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will work as an oversight mechanism. After the self-regulation by the creators and the gigantic global OTT platforms like Netflix, the Ministry will be at the apex of the tiers. However, there are no particular details yet released about how the government will attain control over online content. 

Analysis

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The regulations under the IT Act are a hot topic in the country. They are criticized for limiting the voice of people on social media and other digital news portals. It is like hunting down people for their strong voices and limiting the freedom of expression. The new rules weaken the privacy of a person invading the right to privacy. There’s no doubt that the new rules are quite stricter, hence it could lead to over censorship of any content. People would not be able to freely come up with their thoughts and ideas.

However, they are a kind of boon for the OTT content consumers. Earlier, the OTT platforms presented totally unfiltered content, which was a plus point in many manners. Earlier, people had a chance to consume unfiltered content. Even the creators had this freedom to display any content of their wish and choice. But this thing also had its repercussions. For example, in 2020 the series Tandav came with a spectacular political story. But later it gained popularity for having FIRs registered against it as it seemed to be promoting enmity among the different groups. 

Another example comprises web content from Netflix named, AK vs. AK. The creators had to apologize for unintentionally hurting the sentiments. The year 2020 got one more such web series named, Mirzapur 2. The series had a huge fanbase but it was criticized for maligning the image of a peaceful city in Uttar Pradesh i.e., Mirzapur. And the list could just go on and on. There are a number of web series that have FIRs and court cases against them. That’s why the government felt the necessity to have control over the content of streaming platforms. The online content has a colossal reach and so it is influential. It can leave a huge impact on one’s thoughts, lifestyle and life. Hence, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting came into the scenario and chose to have control over everything. 

Conclusion

As we can witness, how easy it is to access the internet and a device so that it has a lot to do with people’s lives consuming it. Anything that has a huge consumption and has a colossal impact on the masses needs to be regulated. Now it will be interesting to see how the OTT platforms and their creators will match up to the government’s regulations in the upcoming years.


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