A clash of lobbies? What awaits the OTT industry in wake of IBF-IAMAI divide

With two regulatory bodies in place, experts hope for a unified, un-impacted OTT industry despite concerns of friction between lobbies

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jun 4, 2021 9:25 AM

With the Indian Broadcasting Foundation's (IBF) decision to accommodate OTT platforms under its ambit, experts believe that a divide in the industry is in the offing.

The splinter may result in two camps, one with traditional OTT players and the other broadcaster-backed players, both lobbies vying for government attention.

IBF’s new digital self-regulatory body (SRB) has already divided OTT players into two groups. While broadcaster backed OTT platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, SonyLIV, Voot, Sun NXT, Discovery+, Jio TV, and Jio Cinema have allied with IBF, traditional OTT players like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, MX Player have continued to be a part of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

“There is a good chance of having two lobbies negotiating with the government for the same issue. Chances are IBF may have a stronger lobby given they have a stronger cloud of members with traditional media businesses in the country. Moreover, IBF already has a Broadcast Content Complaint Council (BCCC) in place which will help them to adapt to the grievance redressal process easily for their member partners,” said the legal officer of a popular news broadcasting house that also has an OTT offering.

Experts also fear ‘difference in opinion’ with two regulatory bodies in place.

“The traditional OTT players and the broadcaster-backed OTT players anyway work on different models. The industry in India is in its nascent stage and we can only hope the initiatives for development in the space remains unified and are un-impacted in terms of decision making. Undoubtedly though, the space has gotten a lot more complicated with two bodies,” said a media lawyer who did not want to be named.

IAMAI Head of Public Policy Bhanupreet Saini, however, is confident that having multiple representative bodies will not have any unfavourable impact. “The rules say that there may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers so there should be no confusion,” he said.

The new IT Rules provide for a Code of Ethics to be followed by digital news publishers and publishers of OTT content, which includes five age-based classifications.

Further, the rules require a three-level Grievance Redressal Mechanism, consisting of the publisher (Level-1), a self-regulating body constituted by the publishers (Level-II) and an Oversight Mechanism of the Government (Level III), with a time-bound grievance disposal mechanism.

Finally, the rules require the furnishing of information by the publishers to the Government and periodical disclosure of information regarding grievance redressal in the public domain.

The self-regulating, according to the rules, would oversee and ensure: the alignment and adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics; provide guidance to publishers on various aspects of the Code of Ethics; address grievances that have not been resolved by publishers within the specified period of fifteen days; hear appeals filed by the complainant against the decision of publishers; issue such guidance or advisories to such publishers as specified in sub-rule and for ensuring compliance to the Code of Ethics

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