National Government to control OTT content in India

Review of a Prime Time talk by Ravish Kumar

Ravish Kumar has become a prominent media figure owing to his strong personality and speaking skills. Not to forget, he is a great journalist, an author, and by profession, the Senior Executive Editor of NDTV India. His arguments are always supported by proper pieces of evidence, either in the form of video clips or newspaper cuttings. Stating facts with proofs makes the audience trust him and shows clarity of thought from his end. Another thing that impressed me was his clarity of speech. Here, we shall discuss one of his talks titled: क्यों Modi सरकार Digital Media को कंट्रोल करना चाहती है?

Source: TheWeek Magazine

So, on February 25, 2021, the Government of India came up with a revision in Information Technology guidelines (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code). The proposal is to monitor and regulate the OTT (over-the-top) platforms running in the country, similar to NBA for news channels and Press Council for print media. Ravish argues against this fact stating that out of several news channels running across the country, only some of them are registered with the NBA, and no rule puts compulsion on this registration. Hence, in this world of social media, the news they spread can never be trusted, as a result of which many news channels have been suffering from allegations of false news spread. Ravish himself gives some examples to support this.

The point being made here is that despite the regulatory body existing for the past many years, news channels are free to broadcast news without going through the required checks, and hence such power is least useful. On a similar note, the Press Council of India had mentioned that it holds no power to punish any person or organization who breaks its code of conduct. Therefore, would the situation be similar for OTT platforms, like Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.? The government says, No. If a controlling body for OTT comes up, it would largely affect the freedom of media. However, there are concerns that it might also affect our right to freely express ourselves through any media.

During this talk, Ravish also talks to M. K. Venu, the founder-editor of The Wire. The guest mentions that in a democratic nation like ours, the govt. cannot authorize some bureaucrats to validate the news. He states that media should consist of diverse people ensuring the freedom of speech from every section of the country.

Finally, the Prime Time talk ends with the question: Is censorship of OTT platforms a trick of the government to control the national media?