The government has brought digital/online media under the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B Ministry). They announced this through a notification on 9th November, 2020.
How did the government make this change?
The notification amends the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, adding digital/online media as a responsibility of the I&B Ministry.
What is digital/online media?
Digital/online media refers to:
- Films and audio-visual programmes by online content providers
- News and current affairs content on online platforms
This includes Over The Top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc. and online news providers.
What is the role of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting?
The I&B Ministry circulates information on government policies, programmes, and achievements. The Ministry also aims to encourage the growth of media and the entertainment sector by enabling value based wholesome entertainment.
Prakash Javadekar is the current Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting.
What are the powers and functions of the Ministry?
The Ministry has three wings: (i) Information Wing, (ii) Broadcasting Wing and (iii) Films Wing.
The Information Wing presents the policies and activities of the government through print, electronic and digital media. It also regulates the rates of government advertisements on print, electronic, and online platforms. It manages media units like the Press Information Bureau, Indian Institute of Mass Communication, etc.
The Broadcasting Wing manages the public broadcasting service Prasar Bharati, and takes care of All India Radio and Doordarshan. It regulates matters related to the development of radio and television broadcasting throughout India. This wing also regulates the content of private satellite channels, local cable operators, and the private FM radio network.
The Films Wing looks into the certification of films for public exhibition, import and export of films, and all matters relating to the film industry. This includes developmental and promotional activities for films, giving government awards for films to promote good cinema, production and distribution of documentaries etc. This wing is also responsible for preserving films and filmic materials.
It is likely that a separate wing of the Ministry will manage the regulation of OTT platforms.
What does the amendment mean for OTT platforms?
The new amendment gives the government control over OTT platforms, which were unregulated till now. In January 2019, eight video streaming services signed a self-regulatory code which put down guiding principles for content on these platforms. However, the government refused to accept this code.
Now, with the government bringing OTT platforms under the control of the I&B Ministry, these platforms may have to keep a check on their content. The platforms may have to apply for certification and approval of the content they wish to stream, which they did not have to do till now.