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Balancing Regulation and Creativity: The Impact of India’s New Broadcasting Services Bill on OTT Platforms and Digital Media

Balancing Regulation and Creativity: The Impact of India's New Broadcasting Services Bill on OTT Platforms and Digital Media

The New Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, introduced in November 2023 by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in India, is a comprehensive legislative proposal that seeks to overhaul the existing regulatory framework of the broadcasting industry. This Bill is significant as it aims to consolidate various existing guidelines and regulations under a single legal framework. Notably, it includes Over-the-Top (OTT) broadcasting service operators and digital media platforms, which were previously governed under different acts like the Information Technology Act, 2000.

One of the key aspects of the Bill is the introduction of a self-regulatory mechanism through Content Evaluation Committees (CECs). Broadcasting network operators will be required to become members of these committees and obtain certifications for the programs they wish to broadcast. The Bill also stipulates the formation of a Broadcast Advisory Council (BAC) to adjudicate grievances related to potential violations of the Programme Code or Advertisement Code.

The Bill has raised concerns, particularly in its treatment of OTT platforms. It seeks to regulate OTT platforms under the same rules as traditional broadcasting services, despite the fundamental differences in how content is delivered by these platforms. OTT platforms allow users to ‘pull’ content based on their choice, unlike traditional broadcasting which ‘pushes’ content to viewers. This has led to debates about the appropriateness of applying uniform regulations to both.

Furthermore, the Bill’s approach to OTT platforms and digital content might result in dual regulations, with online content platforms being governed by both the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, and the provisions of the Bill. This could pose operational challenges for OTT platforms and other digital content publishers.

The implications for YouTubers, content creators, and consumers are significant. The Bill’s approach could potentially hinder creative expression and limit freedom of speech, as it requires OTT services to certify their content with a content evaluation committee and adhere to a multi-layered regulatory system. Critics are concerned that this could lead to the homogenization of content across platforms and stifle the diversity and creativity currently seen in the industry.

For consumers, the impact might be seen in the form of reduced variety and potentially censored content, aligning with government-prescribed programming and advertising codes. The establishment of CECs and a BAC to oversee content has raised fears of increased compliance burdens on OTT platforms, possibly affecting the user experience.

In summary, the New Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill aims to create a unified legal structure for the broadcasting sector, extending its reach to include digital news and OTT platforms. While it presents opportunities for more streamlined regulation, it also poses challenges regarding artistic freedom, the extent of government control, and the practicalities of implementing a self-regulatory framework.

Editorial Team

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this feature article are of the author. This is not meant to be an advisory to purchase or invest in products, services or solutions of a particular type or, those promoted and sold by a particular company, their legal subsidiary in India or their channel partners. No warranty or any other liability is either expressed or implied.
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