Legal ViewOpinion

Government finally took a stand on digital content

OTT in past few years has become a new way of enjoyment for the people. It is a medium through which people can watch many contents at their home without going to the theatre. However, the rise of OTT has also given rise to the unfiltered contents on the platform which needs to be regulated.

I moved a petition in Supreme Court by the way Public Interest Litigation seeking the Hon’ble Court to direct the Government for establishment of a proper board/institution/association for the monitoring and management of content on different 0TT/Streaming and digital media platform. With cinemas theatres unlikely to get crowd anytime soon in the country, OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and Series from the censor board.

That the petition pertains to the requirement of a board/ association/ institution for monitoring, management and regularizing of 0TT/Streaming and digital media platform across India and of absence of any law or autonomous body governing the digital content have made these digital contents available to the public at large without any filter or screening. The Union of India and Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) was supposed to issue a negative list – a list of some non-negotiable prohibited contents to OTT/Streaming service providers by the end of 2019. They had also urged the OTT/Streaming Platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body and monitor themselves and gave a reasonable window of 100 (hundred) days to come up with a mechanism to deal with the adult and political content posted on various OTT/Streaming platform. Internet regulatory pushed for the Self-regulatory code (Tier Two Version), which would lead to the setting up of DCCC for regulating/monitoring content on OTT/Streaming Platforms across India, without much deliberation and Consensus. However their flagship India Digital Summit event was attended by only five signatories on the 05.02.2020 while various other OTT/Streaming Platforms wrote to them recording their dissent to the code asking for reconsideration in the code. This move made it evident that content regulation/monitoring is the need of the hour. These unregulated portals are putting everything online without any moderation and common people in India are watching the same at their houses which could ultimately lead to various

Another issue is that no self regulatory body has ever been successful in doing enough merely for a fact that there isn’t anyone to monitor them and they try to sell things as per their wish which is going to increase the Problems in coming future. Due to unavailability of a code, courts were also helpless and unable to take actions on the complaints against the OTT contents. OTT contents often show nudity, violence and adult contents without any filtration which is not only bad in eye of law but is culturally wrong for a diverse country like India. These platforms have also became a hub for Hinduphobic contents which has erred a lot of Indians. When I moved the Petition before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of India said that even he wants these to be regulated and further issued notice to the government.

Government of India on 11th November issued a notification putting digital contents including films, audio-visual, news and current affairs under it’s ambit thus bringing now only OTT content in check but every other digital content.

For a democratic country like India, no right should be absolute which includes the provider/supplier of digital contents and that they must be checked.

I’m hopeful that government will come up with an autonomous body as their next step so to deal with this issue and make digital content a good place in India.

Author: Adv. Shashank Shekhar Jha
Legal Editor, GoaChronicle.com

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