The government has brought films, audiovisuals, news and current affairs content on online platforms under the domain of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat on 10 November night, content made available by online providers such as Netflix will come under the ministry.
The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, said 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 and it will come into effect immediately.
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.
These rules may be called the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Three Hundred and Fifty Seventh Amendment Rules, 2020. They shall come into force at once.
“In the Government of India (Allocation of Business, 1961, in THE SECOND SCHEDULE, under the heading ‘MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING (SOOCHANA AUR PRASARAN MANTRALAYA)’ after entry 22, the following sub-heading and entries shall be inserted, namely:- VA. DIGITAL/ONLINE MEDIA. 22A. Films and Audio-Visual programmes made available by online content providers. 22B. News and current affairs content on online platforms,” it said.
This means that digital content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hotsar will now be regulated by the Union ministry headed by Prakash Javadekar.
While the Press Council of India (PCI) looks after the print media, the television news channels come under News Broadcasters Association (NBA). The Advertising Standards Council of India is for regulating the content of the advertisements and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) monitors films, but there is at present no law or autonomous body governing digital content or Over-the-top (OTT) platforms.
The Supreme Court had last month sought the Centre’s response on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for regulating OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video by an autonomous body. The PIL stated that digital content on these platforms is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening.
A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian had issued notices to the central government, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
None of the OTT/streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the I&B ministry since February 2020, the plea had alleged.