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OTT regulation: SC asks Centre to apprise on govt's plan

The top court was hearing a plea demanding mechanism to monitor and regulate OTTs.

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the Centre about the steps being taken on the issue of regulation of OTT platforms and directed it to submit an affidavit on the same within six weeks.

The three judge bench headed by chief justice of India SA Bobde was hearing a plea filed by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha who has sought establishment of an autonomous body to regulate OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The petitioner also contended that none of the OTT/streaming platforms, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar, had committed to self-regulation norms.

Additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain said the government was contemplating "some action" on the issue of regulating OTT platforms. To which the CJI said, "We cannot accept mere contemplations. Everybody contemplates. Notice issued and tagged with pending case. Submit an affidavit on steps being taken.”

The issue of OTT regulation also took centre stage in the recent session of Parliament, where information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar faced a volley of questions on the same. In his response, the BJP leader said the government has received several grievances/complaints regarding the content of programmes on video streaming services. It has held several consultations with OTT players, including with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), impressing upon them the need for having an appropriate self-regulatory mechanism for content over OTT platforms.

He said the IAMAI had also informed the ministry last year about a self-regulatory mechanism that had been developed for OTT platforms. But, “the mechanism proposed by IAMAI did not give adequate cognisance to content prohibited under law and there were issues of conflict of interest, which were communicated to IAMAI in September 2020.”

At present, there is no law or autonomous body governing the digital content to monitor and manage these digital contents and it is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening, the petitioner has stated in the PIL and sought for setting up a central board for regulation and monitoring of online video contents (CBRMOVC) to monitor and filter the contents and regulate the videos on various platforms for viewers in India.

“With cinemas unlikely to open anytime soon in the country, OTT/streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out to filmmakers and artists to release their content without getting any clearance certificate from the censor board,” the plea read.

Amidst this, the IAMAI has announced the adoption of a comprehensive implementation toolkit last week and 17 leading OTT platforms have already signed on it. The association said the toolkit is a step forward from the Universal Self-Regulation Code it had introduced in September last year.

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