The Centre has decided to bring all content streamed on OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, besides news and current affairs content on digital platforms, under the ambit of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.

Concerns had been raised of late on the content streamed on OTT platforms. This development also comes after the self-regulation code adopted by 15 OTT platforms under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India reportedly failed to get the endorsement of the I&B Ministry in September.

According to the latest gazette notification, “films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers” and “news and current affairs content on online platforms” have been brought under the ambit of the I&B Ministry through amendments to the Allocation of Business Rules, 1961.

The Ministry had indicated earlier this year that it proposes to take over the jurisdiction of online content from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, citing the need for a level playing field between all media.

Experts say it remains to be seen what kind of mechanism the I&B Ministry adopts, but OTT platforms in India will need to brace for some sort of a regulatory framework on content.

“The step to bring online content platforms within the ambit of the I&B Ministry is a major jolt to platforms like Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Such platforms have thus far viewed India as a prime market, but that sentiment may change if overbearing regulations are imposed on them as a deviation to the global norm,” said Harsh Walia, Partner at Khaitan & Co.

“Having said that, it is not entirely clear as to which facet of online content platforms is proposed to be governed by the I&B Ministry, which is typically elaborated in matters that find a mention in the Second Schedule of the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961,” he said. Walia added that a lot of aspects are “still in the grey” and the “modalities of regulation, that is, whether any new rules or guidelines will be issued to accommodate this change, will have to be seen.”

Safeguarding creativity

Karan Bedi, CEO, MX Player, said: “As responsible content creators, we want to ensure this act not only takes cognisance of the nature of content being released, but also ensures that we safeguard creativity in this rapidly growing sector.”

Currently, various media segments, such as print, general entertainment channels and films, are governed by multiple organisations.