MIB takes control of online news portals and digital content

The exponential growth of digital media in the past few years has raised the question of how online content will be regulated. For a long time, discussions were on whether to issue guidelines to regulate the exhibition of online content. 

Now, the government has brought online news platforms and content providers under the ambit of the ministry of information & broadcasting (MIB) to strengthen its hold over these entities.

Signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, the statement/notification was issued on Monday, which stated that films and audio-visual programmes made available by online content providers, as well as news and current affairs content on online platforms will come under MIB’s purview. 

Earlier MIB secretary Amit Khare had mentioned at FICCI e-Frames that the ministry is proposing to take over jurisdiction on online content regulation from the ministry of electronics & information technology.

“OTT being a digital platform will fall under the purview of the ministry of IT. We are proposing a decision that content should fall under purview of I&B. Convergence of ministries is extremely necessary,” Khare had said.

Presently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content. The government was not able to regulate online content earlier as these streaming services do not require any certifications because they don’t come under the Cinematograph Act of 1952.

The notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat has amended the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 by inserting two new entries – 22A and 22B – to the Second Schedule of the Rules.

The two new entries are as follows:

  • Films and audio visual programmes made available by online content providers
  • News and current affairs on online platforms.

Coming under this are OTT platforms, news portals and also streaming services such as Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and others which are accessible over the internet or ride on an operator’s network.

Given intense pressure from the government, Internet and Mobile Association of India( IAMAI) also tried to push a self-regulatory model for online content curators. About 15 OTT players operating in the country came together to sign a self-regulatory pact, which was later rejected by MIB. The ministry asked IAMAI to look at other models.

The development was announced in a gazette notification on Wednesday. The notification declared that the signed the order to include online films, digital news and current affairs content under the purview of the I&B Ministry headed by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar.