OTT platforms plan to remove news channels due to ambiguity in intermediary rules

The need for platforms to self-classify content based on age and the fact that OTT platforms don't have any control over news content has prompted them to remove live news

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: May 31, 2021 1:27 PM  | 3 min read
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Over the top (OTT) platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, SonyLIV, Voot, and ZEE5 are planning to remove news content from their platforms due to ambiguity over the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. 
While SonyLIV has moved news channels from its platform others are expected to follow suit. This will be a setback for TV news broadcasters as it will impact their digital reach and the OTT revenue stream.
The News Broadcasters Association (NBA) has requested the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) to keep online platforms owned by news broadcasters outside the purview of the intermediary guidelines since it will lead to duplication of the adjudicatory and redressal mechanism resulting in the creation of parallel adjudicatory bodies. 
Many OTT platforms have aggregated live news channels across languages since news drives a significant consumption for these platforms. Prior to the implementation of the intermediary guidelines, the OTT platforms were carrying third-party live news channels without any hiccups.

However, the intermediary guidelines and the need for OTT platforms to self-classify content based on age and the fact that OTT platforms don't have any control over news content has prompted them to remove live news till the time there is no clarity.

"OTT platforms are planning to remove live news since it has become a grey area with the implementation of intermediary guidelines. OTT platforms have sought clarification from the ministry whether they will be liable to take down news content in case it violates the guidelines but there has been no response from the ministry," the source said.

The OTT platforms, which are also called the publishers of online curated content in the rules, have to self-classify content into five age-based categories - U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).

The three-tier grievance redressal mechanism includes self-regulation by the publishers by appointing a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take a decision on every grievance it receives within 15 days.

The second tier is self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers. There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or an independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the MIB. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days. The third tier will see the formulation of an oversight mechanism by the MIB. The ministry shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.

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