This is being seen as essential in recent times, with several web series released, and since the lockdown even films, on these platforms. There’s a grey area as far as OTTs are concerned and there’s no act in the statute whereby the government lays down either a programming code, as in the case of TV, or has a body like the Censor Board to accord prior approval to movies.
For instance, films that get released in theatres need to have a certification from the Central Board of Film Certification under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. Similarly, TV content is governed under the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995, which lays down a programming code by way of dos and don’ts.
These acts come under the purview of the information and broadcasting ministry. However, when it comes to OTTs there’s no law that lays down any kind of programming code for them. Interestingly, even films that get released on OTTs do not need a certification by CBFC. Just to give an example, movies like Shakuntala Devi or Gunjan Saxena Kargil Girl, which got released on OTTs when theatres were closed, did not require a CBFC certification.
If the same movies were to get released in theatres they would have needed a certification. The OTTs and the content on them do not come under the purview of the I&B ministry but fall in the domain of ministry of electronics and information technology. Here, too, the OTTs and the programmes that they stream are governed by Sections 67, 67A and 67B of the Information Technology Act. These are IT Acts that apply to the entire Internet domain and basically aims at punishing anybody who publishes or transmits in the electronic form any material that contains sexually explicit acts, etc. These Acts are not civil in nature as is the case with Cinematograph Act or Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act. Under the relevant IT acts, action can only be taken against an OTT player for showing any sexually explicit act or pornography, etc, if someone files an FIR (first information report).
Sources in the government said, therefore, there’s a need to address this grey area in law. However, at this point of time it is felt that instead of the government drawing up a set of acts and bringing OTT content under them, a better way would be to urge the industry players to bring about some form of self-regulation practices that serve as a programming code for them.
There’s also some talk that the content part of OTTs be transferred to I&B from Meity to address the issues relating to convergence better.