Industry associations for broadcasters and streaming companies teamed up again urging to keep OTT players outside the regulatory ambit of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation and Internet and Mobile Association of India wrote to the telecom regulator arguing that there is no need to bring OTT channels under the regulatory ambit of a “broadcasting system” and thus be under TRAI’s regulation. These comments came as submissions to the consultation process for National Broadcasting Policy that TRAI is currently in the process of drafting. 

Earlier this year, as Ministry of Information and Broadcasting sought industry comments during the drafting process of the Broadcasting bill, both associations had reiterated that “digital media” or OTT is dissimilar to linear television, thus it gets sufficient regulation under the Ministry of Electronics and IT as well as its own self regulatory mechanisms. Thus, it asked the MIB to keep digital media out of its regulatory purview. 

Similar requests are being made at present. In its comments to the TRAI, IBDF submitted, “Digital media is not part of the broadcasting ecosystem and therefore should not be covered under the proposed policy.” 

It went on to add that, “There is no evidence of market or regulatory failure that requires added policy emphasis. Moreover, there are several distinctions between broadcasting services and OCCPs and digital media, as they make differentiated offerings to consumers.”

IAMAI further added, “In view of the self-sufficient existing mechanism to regulate Digital Media platforms, there is no requirement to bring them under the contours of “broadcasting system”. The robust self-regulatory mechanism governing OTT service providers and overseen by the MIB, has not only been effective, but also efficient in addressing and redressing grievances, ensuring optimal and reasonable compliance and creating an environment of voluntary superintendence. The benefits and advantages of self regulation are now well known and recorded not only in India but the world over.”

IAMAI also expressed concern over TRAI’s proposal to extend similar licensing and compliances to digital platforms as experienced by the broadcasting industry. However, they note that TRAI has noted no legal or economic rationale for the same. 

IBDF and IAMAI are industry associations representing two separate types of media entities. While IBDF represents traditional broadcasters, IAMAI represents global streaming brands like Netflix and Amazon. Over the years, their interests have started to converge as both entities compete in the growing industry of digital streaming.

The Ministry of Communications has been trying to bring digital companies under their ambit, through many laws and regulations. In the previous versions of the Telecom Bill, the Ministry had proposed bringing digital communications platforms under the ambit of the Ministry of Communications. The same is being done while drafting the New Broadcasting Policy for streaming companies as well.