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New IT guidelines not intended to control OTT platforms: I&B minister

The rules call for a three-tier regulation mechanism for over-the-top platforms.

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NEW DELHI: The government has attempted to provide a level-playing field for various digital platforms through the new guidelines on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, said union information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar, amid concerns that the new rules may pose a threat to the freedom of expression.

The minister mentioned that digital technology platforms have played a key role in promoting transparency and introducing a corruption-free atmosphere in governance.

“Through these guidelines on OTT, we have tried to bring about transparency and provide a level playing field to various media platforms, be it electronic, print, or digital media. It is just for fair-facilitation for self-regulation and not intended for controlling the OTT platforms,” said Javadekar, while speaking at a digital media conclave organised by a private TV network in Mumbai.

The new rules released by the government on 25 February ask for a three-tier grievance system and content classification for digital platforms. First, self-regulation by the platform through a grievance redressal officer; second, by an institutional self-regulatory body of industry experts, and third level of oversight through an interdepartmental committee constituted by the government.

While this may create a forum where users can voice their complaints, there are concerns that it could also lead to an increase of content-related disputes in the country. Several video streaming platforms are already mired in controversies over their content, the latest being Amazon Prime’s Tandav and Netflix’s Bombay Begums.

The formulation of guidelines took place expeditiously, revealed Javadekar, with more than 50 cabinet meetings held virtually to ensure that there weren't any delays in the decision-making.

The union minister also talked about the decision to broadcast the old Doordarshan TV series like Ramayana, Mahabharat during the pandemic and how it registered record-breaking viewership.

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