SC to examine OTT regulations tomorrow

India has seen a proliferation of VoD apps, like Zee5

A Supreme Court bench of Ashok Bhushan and Subhash Reddy has asked to see the new regulations brought out by the central government on content apps.

In an appeal for anticipatory bail for Amazon Prime creative head Aparna Purohit in a case of outraging Hindu sentiments, the bench asked the government what it plans to do about regulating videos available on various content apps for consumption on smartphones and smart TVs.

The government informed the court that it has recently put out a comprehensive set of regulations for the sector. On this, the bench said it would like to examine the same, and asked for the regulations to be placed on record.

The government will submit the new regulations tomorrow.


Last week, the government came out with the regulations — which are considered progressive and balanced, at least as far as content apps are concerned — after coming under pressure from politicians and even some judges over ‘scandalous’ and uncomfortable content in web series’ available on various streaming platforms or over-the-top (OTT) services.

The new rules address two types of content — news and current affairs on the one side, and entertainment on the other.

While the rules for the entertainment segment have been well received and are considered balanced, many have criticised the government’s decision to set up a body of government officials as the supreme oversight committee for all of digital media, including news content.

“ oversight authority manned by government officials will be at the apex of the regulatory pyramid, under it will be a self-regulation body headed by a retired judge,” pointed out the daily Economic Times in an editorial comment.

“The oversight body will draft a code and it will have suo motu powers to call for hearings. To apply this to digital news portals is to change the very notion of press freedom as commonly understood,” the paper said.

Echoing concerns in the journalist community, the pink paper pointed out that the regulations have clearly brought online news under the rules that are applicable to print news, and that should have been enough. It also pointed out the government did not consult any digital news publisher before drafting the rules, while it did consult all the major entertainment content publishers.

“The notice says Press Council of India rules should be followed by digital news media. Plus, remember, all news content in any case is subject to scrutiny under provisions of various laws. Regulation should have stopped there…These rules are unacceptable as they stand,” it added.

The paper also worried that a body of government bureaucrats may not be qualified enough to act as a supreme appeals body in case of creative content.

Many youngsters have taken to the new medium and generate a large variety of highly creative and experimental content for publication on their Youtube channels, Facebook pages and so on.

“India is a creative fertile ground now for streaming entertainment services. Regulation should not kill that new spirit,” it noted.

Amazon Prime Video India creative head Aparna Purohit’s anticipatory bail plea was rejected by Allahabad High Court last week after several FIRs were lodged against her.

Rejecting the bail plea, the single judge seemed to point to a conspiracy against Hindu culture and religion.

“Western filmmakers have refrained from ridiculing Lord Jesus or the Prophet but Hindi filmmakers have done this repeatedly and are still doing this most unabashedly with the Hindu Gods and Goddesses,” the court said in its order.

“This tendency on the part of the Hindi film industry is growing and if not curbed in time, it may have disastrous consequences for the Indian social, religious and communal order. There appears to be a design behind such acts on the part of the people who just give a disclaimer in all the films and depict things in the movies which are really religiously, socially and communally offensive in nature,” it noted.

An appeal was filed against the above order in the SC, which has been rejected as well.