2023 MAR 9

Mains   > Economic Development   >   Indian Economy and issues   >   Media


  • Recently, the Delhi high court exhorted the Union government to tighten regulations on the language used in web series streamed on OTT (over the top) platforms while asking the legislature to consider framing laws or rules for enforcing a stricter application of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, for the intermediaries.


  • OTT or Over-the-Top platforms are audio and video hosting and streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar etc, which started out as content hosting platforms but soon branched out into the production and release of short movies, feature films, documentaries and web series themselves
  • These media services can easily be accessed through mobile phones, laptops, smart TV, and other audio-visual devices with an internet connection.
  • Most OTT platforms generally offer some content for free and charge a monthly subscription fee for premium content which is generally unavailable elsewhere.
  • One of the biggest boosts that the OTT platforms achieved was during the pandemic period of COVID-19, where this industry flourished many folds


  • There are currently about 46 providers of over-the-top media services in India that distribute content over the internet.
  • According to SBI Research, India's over-the-top (OTT) market is expected to reach Rs 11,944 crore by 2023, up from Rs 2,590 crore in 2018.
  • There are currently over 45 million OTT subscribers in India. This figure is expected to reach 50 million by the end of 2023.


  • Cost effective:
    • Anyone can easily register themselves and pay a subscription amount which makes it cost-effective, as compared to tradition cinema theatres
  • Easy access:
    • One can log in to these OTT platforms through mobile applications, smart TV, etc.; the only requirement is an internet connection.
  • Creative use of media:
    • As OTT platforms are relatively less subjected to censorship, it helps bring socio-political content or matters to a common man, which otherwise are censored in mainstream media.
  • An open platform for entertainment industry:
    • The biggest advantage of this platform is that it has provided a medium for new talent to get more opportunities as the number of projects are much higher in comparison to television or films
  • Platform for international content:
    • Any Indian content uploaded on these platforms can be viewed internationally. This gives a broader outreach of content and talent
  • On- demand media consumption:
    • The OTT services have a hybrid character as they combine the passive consumption mode of television and the consumer choice of the web. Thus, OTT platforms' advantage of playing media anywhere and anytime has created a massive demand for it.
  • Sustenance of entertainment industry:
    • The future of traditional media platforms such as cinema and live events is in jeopardy. This is even applicable in the post-Covid era, due to social distancing becoming the norm in society.
  • Democratization of media:
    • OTT industry is benefiting numerous content producers and artists.
    • It also helps in accessing regional films around the country as well as globally.


  • Lack of regulation:
    • While traditional media in India are regulated under specific laws such as:
      • Films are regulated under the Cinematograph Act of 1952 - which provides for the certification of cinematograph films for public exhibition.
      • The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 - that applies to content appearing on cable televisions.
    • However, there is no such specific law for regulation of content over OTT platforms.
  • Ineffectiveness of self-regulatory mechanism:
    • Self- regulatory mechanism proposed by IAMAI did not give adequate cognizance to content prohibited under law and there were issues of conflict of interest
  • Threat to social harmony:
    • However, due to the lack of censorship, content on OTT platforms can disrupt social harmony and moral fabric of society.
  • Cultural homogenization:
    • Content from the western world, with better technical quality and reach, dominates the OTT platforms; sidelines locally produced contents, and pave the way for cultural imperialism.
  • Adverse effect of regulation:
    • Government is planning for establishing a regulatory code on the content of OTT platforms >> these regulations could also mean that these platforms would have to apply for certification and approval of the content they wish to stream >> this could give rise to issues such as cultural conservatism, curbing the voice against the government etc.
  • Burden to judiciary:
    • Because of the policy vacuum in online content regulation, people resort to the judiciary when they have concerns related to vulgar content on online media.


  • Increasing consumer base:
    • With the increasing usage of the internet each day and multiple genres of media and content being released, the Government had to maintain the standards of traditional and digital/online content
  • To ensure public order and security:
    • Multiple complaints and issues had been raised by the people concerning the contents being shown online – such as contents promoting violence, abuse, vulgarity and disrespect to religious sentiments
  • Level playing field:
    • In India, OTT is the only platform that was self-regulatory, thus to make it equivalent to similar platforms like television and radio, the OTTs must be brought under regulatory ambit


  • Brought under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:
    • Union government has brought Over The Top (OTT) platforms under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 2020.
    • It will give the government control over these platforms, which were unregulated till now as there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content.
    • Earlier it was under the purview of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules for OTT Platforms:

  • Categorization of content:
    • The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
  • Parental lock:
    • Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.
  • Display rating:
    • OTT platforms shall display rating specific to each content to enable the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.

To read more about ‘Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021: https://ilearncana.com/details/INFORMATION-TECHNOLOGY-RULES-2021/1848

  • Online content providers comes under the legal framework of the Information Technology Act 2000
  • In 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a consultation paper on regulation of OTT services


  • In 2020, major OTT platforms had adopted a Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs that laid down a set of guiding principles for content on these platforms which prohibited five types of content.

IAMAI Secretariat for the Code:

Major OTT platforms and Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) set up an ‘IAMAI Secretariat for the Code’ to administer the implementation of the self-regulatory code and the toolkit.

  • This includes:
    • Content that deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag.
    • Any visual or story line that promotes child pornography.
    • Any content that “maliciously” intends to outrage religious sentiments.
    • Content that “deliberately and maliciously” promotes or encourages terrorism.
    • Any content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or court.
  • In February 2021, 17 platforms, including Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, have adopted a ‘toolkit’ for effective implementation of the self-regulation code introduced in 2020.


  • Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI)
    • Aims at expanding the online value-added service sector. It is registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860
  • Digital Curated Content Complaints Council (DCCC)
    • Launched in February 2020 and aims at providing a better online viewing experience for the viewers and also open up a complaint mechanism for their assistance
  • Press Council of India
    • Maintains the print media
  • Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)
    • It is the censor board for the Indian film industry
  • News Broadcasting Standards Authority:
    • Body responsible to manage the content on television


  • Community led approach:
    • Government could set up a committee involving the public to look into complaints regarding contents in OTT platforms
  • Viewers’ responsibility:
    • Bring legal provisions that makes the viewers/users responsible for the content they watch in online platforms
  • Digital awareness:
    • Consumers should be made aware of the issues associated with online video streaming; and the rights and duties they have as a consumer of such services.
    • Also, the public must be made aware of OTT rules in the country. Though the OTT Rules (Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules) were notified in 2021, there is little awareness about them among the general public.
  • We need a more liberal form of content regulation:
    • As the Khosla Committee pointed out India had one of the strictest models of censorship in the world and that there was need for a more liberal form of content regulation
  • Government interferences may kill innovation:
    • Government can’t maintain its paternalistic role in technology if they want the society to benefit from technological development
  • A technology-centric approach:
    • Such an approach allows policymakers to properly assess the economic conditions of the industry’s new business models, the changes in consumer behavior and the influence of distribution platforms.
    • The government should treat the internet as a marketplace of ideas that transgresses geopolitical considerations, and therefore, should adopt policies anchored and following the logic of the technological change
  • Respecting the freedom of expression:
    • The government should also take into account the future of free speech regime in India, which will play a major role in the impact of content regulation.
    • Any kind of content regulation on OTT platforms is likely to directly affect the power of the states to regulate other forms of content generation.
  • Self-regulation as an alternative:
    • Given the nature of OTT services and their growing reach, self-regulation presents itself as a strong alternative to state censorship

Best practice:

  • Singapore model:
    • In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority is the common regulator for different media.
    • Aside from instituting a statutory framework and promoting industry self-regulation, its approach to media regulation emphasises promoting media literacy through public education.


Q. Discuss the need for a separate legal framework to regulate the online news and OTT platforms.