As the Supreme Court awaits the Centre's reply on vulgar and harmful content being streamed on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, the concerned officials from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry are set to meet the representatives from various OTT vendors over releasing shows such as 'Leila' and 'The Patriot Act' that depict the Hindu religion in poor light.
There has been a surge lately in such anti-Hindu content on various OTT platforms that has reportedly upset organisations such as the RSS and the VHP.
Shows such as 'Leila', 'Patriot Act' (both streaming on Netflix) and 'The Final Call' (on Zee5) have already been flagged for their provocative content and the I&B Ministry will soon meet the OTT players to discuss the situation.
The OTT platforms currently do not come under the ambit of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) content guidelines.
The Supreme Court has already issued a notice to the central government on the regulation of uncertified and sexually explicit content on online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
"The online platforms are displaying unlicensed, unregulated, uncertified content and collecting subscription amounts from Indian consumers whereas the content telecast on the online platforms is illegal to the extent that certain movies are banned under the provisions of the Indian Cinematograph Act," advocate H.S. Hora said on behalf of the petitioner NGO Justice for Rights Foundation.
The PIL has also alleged that the content of several show on OTT platforms violates provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Information Technology Act.
A similar appeal is pending before the Karnataka High Court.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is also looking at the possibility of bringing digital streaming platforms under the same licensing or regulatory norms that are applicable to telecom service providers (TSPs).
Earlier OTT services were limited to WhatsApp, Hike, Skype and Viber. But with the popularity of streaming video content and TV channels, Video OTTs have also started playing out on telecom networks in a big way.
The regulator had sought the industry's views on which OTT services should be regarded as the same or similar to those offered by telecom operators, and if "substitutability" should be the main criteria for comparison of regulatory or licensing rules applicable to TSPs and OTT service providers.
According to T.V. Ramachandran, President, Broadband India Forum (BIF),OTTs are not gatekeepers and do not control broadband access.
"They also do not own or control network infrastructure. Hence there is no case to regulate them. Any attempt to regulate them would only stifle their innovative, ultra-low cost services to the public and thus harm society and the economy".
In January, online curated content providers, including Netflix and Hotstar, voluntarily signed a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Amazon Prime Video, however, is not part to the self-regulatory code.