Streaming platforms, digital news to be regulated by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry

However, until now, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.

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The Centre government on Wednesday has announced a major decision which states that from now on streaming platforms, online films, audio-visual programs, along with online news and current affairs will be regulated by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. 

The order has been signed by the Hon'ble President, Ram Nath Kovind, which will come into immediate effect. As per the notification," the decision has been taken in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (3) of Article 77 of the Constitution, by amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961."

OTT platforms include news portals and streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar will now be governed by the I&B Ministry headed by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. 

With this, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has the power to regulate policies related to news, audio, visual contents, and films available on online platforms.

However, until now, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.

Notably, it is The Press Council of India that takes care of the print media, the news channels are being monitored by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), and for the advertising, the  Advertising Standards Council of India regulates it while the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) takes care of films.

Though, last month, the Supreme Court issued notices to the Centre, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Internet and Mobile Association of India and sought their response on a petition for regulating OTT platforms by an autonomous body.

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It is pertinent to mention here, OTT platforms and other digital media platforms has been a boon for the content creators and for the filmmakers as they don't have to worry about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board. 

The Information and Broadcasting ministry had earlier told the Supreme Court in a separate case that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons before forming the guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in the media.

Last year, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had said that the government will not take any step that may curb media freedom. There should be some kind of regulation on over-the-top platforms (OTT), as there is for the print and electronic media as well as films, he added. 

This decision, however, comes at the time when the nation witnessed a massive increase in the number of OTT platforms, news portals amidst the coronavirus induced lockdown. The newly enforced orders might become successful in marking the fake news to safeguard the interest of citizens in the online content.