Can IBF impact IAMAI's hold on OTT sector?

Experts say that while IBF may be better placed than IAMAI to settle complaints, whoever evolves strongly will ultimately have an edge in attracting new platforms

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Jun 7, 2021 8:14 AM  | 5 min read

Ever since the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) decided to form its own self-regulatory body (SRB) under the intermediary guidelines and rechristen itself as Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation (IBDF), there have been murmurs in the industry whether the Internet & Mobile Association of India's (IAMAI) hold on the digital entertainment segment will weaken.

While some industry experts opine that there is no split in the OTT industry as the IT rules themselves provide for more than one SRB. However, there are some who say that the IBF's decision will have long-term implications for the industry. They also add that the decision of broadcaster-owned OTT platforms will reduce the IAMAI's heft while dealing with the ministry. It is pertinent to note that many of the IBF members continue to be members of IAMAI even as the foundation has formed its own SRB.

They also say that the IBF being a legacy body dealing with content for years now will have an edge over IAMAI which is dominated by tech companies. IAMAI is a not-for-profit industry body whose mandate is to protect the interests of the online and mobile value-added services sectors. The association's members include large businesses as well as emerging start-ups. It also has members from the media and content business including Star India, Network18, Viacom18, Zee Digital Convergence, and Sony Pictures Network India (SPNI).

The fact that the IBF has a healthy relationship with MIB while dealing with broadcasting content-related matters has also been cited as an advantage that it enjoys over IAMAI. The MIB is the nodal ministry for TV broadcasting. In November 2020, the government had brought the content part of OTT and digital news platforms under the MIB. With MIB becoming the nodal ministry for both TV and digital content, the IBF felt that it is better off dealing with the OTT content matter by itself rather than going with the IAMAI-led SRB.

"It doesn't matter which way other OTT platforms are going because the guidelines allow multiple SRBs. Over time, whoever is going to evolve strongly will attract platforms that have not joined any of the bodies. IBF has moved swiftly to appoint members because their infrastructure is ready. So it is only a matter of time. The IBF's SRB will get operationalised as soon as other formalities will get over," a senior official from one of the top broadcasting companies said on condition of anonymity.

Concurring with this view, the chief of an OTT platform, who is yet to decide on which SRB to join, said that the IBF-led SRB has an advantage over IAMAI-led SRB since it has experience in dealing with content related complaints through Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC). "We are still contemplating which way to go. However, the IBF scores over IAMAI in terms of having experience in dealing with content-led complaints," the executive said.

The official also pointed that IBF has an advantage over IAMAI on many counts. "IBF has the advantage of being a legacy body. As far as content is concerned, IBF is stronger than IAMAI. Secondly, IBF has established its credentials before the ministry. IAMAI is dominated by tech companies which can be seen from their stand in the matter of copyright and IPR. Due to the dominance of tech companies, content companies had to compromise their position in the matter. If there is copyright or IPR related issue their submissions are very nuanced so as not to rub the tech companies the wrong way," the official noted.

Under IBF, pure content companies can take up their position quite strongly with policymakers whether it is DPIT, Copyright board, or before the courts, the official further stated. "In the IAMAI governing council, how many pure-play content players are there? Only two or three out of 25. So what is the power that we have?" the official said.

Putting the IAMAI perspective forward, an industry source said that the IAMAI will not see any dilution in its stature as far as the digital entertainment segment is concerned. The source noted that the broadcaster-owned OTT platforms continue to be members of the IAMAI and its Digital Entertainment Committee.

"The industry has always been united about the fact that OTT should be regulated through a self-regulatory mechanism and IAMAI was leading that through and through. The principle still stands and all the members irrespective of which self-regulatory body they join are all aligned to that. What has only changed is that the government notified the rules in February. What the industry was discussing has been made into rules," the source said requesting not to be quoted. 

"Rule 12 says that you can have more than one body. Both the grievance redressal bodies are going to be independent and robust with eminent people from various fields being a part of them. Both bodies should co-exist seamlessly and provide the best balance between creativity and consumer choice," the source added.
Ten OTT players namely Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, ALTBalaji, Hungama Play, MX Player, ShemarooMe, Aha, Lionsgate, Firework TV, and hoichoi have decided to remain in the IAMAI camp. On the other hand, Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, SonyLIV, Voot, Sun NXT, Discovery+, Jio TV, and Jio Cinema have decided to join IBF's SRB on OTT content.

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