Government brings content on online platforms like Netflix under broadcast ministry

The notification, signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, said the decision has been taken in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (3) of article 77 of the Constitution.
Image used for representational purpose only. (File photo| AP)
Image used for representational purpose only. (File photo| AP)

NEW DELHI: The Central government has brought online news portals and over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). 

According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat late on Tuesday night and signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers, as well as news and current affairs on online platforms would come under the MIB’s purview.

The order also covers news on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. 

The decision has evoked sharp reactions from the digital media industry. “This move is a step towards censorship of online news platforms. The government is doing this because some online news portals criticise government policies,” said Poonam Agarwal, editor, investigations, The Quint.

Siddharth Varadarajan, founding editor of The Wire, said, “The underlying impulse of involving the I&B ministry is to introduce special rules to hinder digital media, which has so far bucked the trend in print and TV spaces of giving the government a free ride.” 

Press Council of India chairperson Justice C K Prasad said, “We are of the view the content should be looked after by a statutory independent body.” 

Dushyantt Kohli, chief operating officer of Khabri, a digital audio platform, said he was hopeful the growth of the industry would be supported and not impeded.

Cyber law expert Pavan Duggal said, “The government must lean in the direction of enabling regulation and ensure such regulations do not tantamount to arbitrary misuse of powers. The golden balance is what the government needs to search for and attain, while moving ahead in this regard.” 

Digital media in the cross hairs

Digital media promoters termed the new notification an attempt by the government to censor unpalatable content. Some also pointed out that the Information Technology Act already applies to digital media.

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