In a significant move, the Central government released the Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 on Friday, aimed at regulating popular over-the-top (OTT) platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon’s Prime Video. The proposed legislation not only addresses concerns related to content on streaming platforms but also expands the government’s authority over online creators and news media platforms.
Empowering Government Oversight
Apar Gupta, a policy expert and the founding director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, highlights that the bill grants the government the power to regulate online creators and news media platforms. Moreover, the draft legislation proposes extending regulatory control to any future platforms developed, according to a senior official from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.
Content Evaluation Committees and Certification
The bill, intended to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act of 1995, introduces the formation of Content Evaluation Committees (CEC). The CEC will play a pivotal role in determining the certification of shows, ensuring that only content deemed appropriate by the panel receives broadcast approval.
Public Consultation Open as Critics Voice Concerns
Despite the government’s intent to modernize regulations, Apar Gupta expresses reservations on Twitter, stating that the proposed bill represents a missed opportunity for liberalization. He contends that the Modi government’s approach leans toward a paternalistic mechanism of censorship and government control.
The draft bill is currently open for public consultation for a 30-day period. In April, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur emphasized the need for streaming platforms to avoid propagating vulgarity and abuse disguised as creative expression. The government appears open to adjusting regulations based on public feedback.
New Digital Advertisement Policy Approved
In a parallel development, the government also announced the approval of the “Digital Advertisement Policy, 2023.” The policy, sanctioned by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, allows the Central Bureau of Communication to conduct advertisement campaigns on social media, OTT platforms, and other digital media channels.
The ministry asserts that this policy marks a crucial moment in the Central Bureau of Communication’s mission to disseminate information and create awareness about various government schemes, programs, and policies. Under the new policy, the department can now enlist digital media agencies to reach podcast listeners, YouTube and OTT viewers, and other social media users. This includes the ability to empanel OTT platforms for ad placement, in-film advertisements, and promotional activities.