Govt content review proposal worries broadcasters, OTT companies

Mumbai: TV broadcasters and streaming platforms are concerned about the potential impact on their creative freedom from the ministry of information and broadcasting’s (MIB) proposed legislation that would require them to get content certified by an evaluation committee before broadcasting it.

As part of its three-tier regulatory mechanism to regulate broadcasting content, the ministry has proposed that each broadcaster and broadcasting network operator should set up content evaluation committees (CECs) and only those programmes certified by CECs should be broadcast.

The committee’s members would include eminent individuals representing different social groups, including women, child welfare, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, and minorities. The central government may specify the number of members in the panel, the quorum required, and other details to assist the establishment and smooth operation of CEC. The proposal would not only impact creative freedom of the broadcasters and OTT platforms but also push up costs and may even prove unfeasible considering the amount of content created, industry experts said.

TMT Law Practice managing partner Abhishek Malhotra said the creative judgment of broadcasters and OTT platforms will be subjected to another review, which may not be acceptable to content creators.

“There will also be an issue of sharing content before it’s proposed for public release – fear of disclosure,” he said. An MIB official, on condition of anonymity, said the ministry wants to strengthen self-regulation through this move, adding that the broadcasters will have freedom in running the CECs.

Industry experts called it a misnomer. While the CEC will be set up by the broadcasting companies, it will be as per the prescription of the central government, noted Siddharth Chopra, M&E practice lead advocate at Saikrishna & Associates. “This, to my mind, makes self-regulation a non-starter,” he said, terming CECs as mini-certification boards. The obligation of setting up CECs will apply to TV channels such as Star Plus, Colors, Zee TV, and Sony Entertainment Television (SET), streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, and JioCinema, and platform services provided by operators such as Tata Play, Dish TV, and Hathway Digital.

Solidad La Madrid

Solidad has been a reporter since 2017. She writes stories about climate change, environment, COVID-19 pandemic and human rights.

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