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Centre to launch its own OTT platform

Prasar Bharati, the government’s public service broadcaster, is planning to start its own over-the-top (OTT) platform from August that will air content focusing on Indian society and culture, ThePrint has learnt.

A senior government official, who wished to not be named, said the OTT platform — which will compete with private platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar — will air content for free the first year or two.

The official added that it will be a “clean” OTT platform with programming the entire family can sit together and watch. “Currently, some of the content on OTT platforms are bordering on vulgar, abusive language. It becomes embarrassing to watch it with your family. We want to offer a platform which is decent and promotes India’s culture and nationalist values…. Something that you can sit with your entire family and watch,” the official said.

The BJP-led NDA government has also mentioned its plan to launch an OTT platform in its 100-day agenda, if it returns to power for the third consecutive term. “There is a huge gap now. The entertainment quotient of OTTs is very polluted. Our focus will be to ensure clean entertainment, promote social and nationalistic values,” the official added.

Besides entertainment, the programmes offered will also cover current affairs.

Initially, to promote the OTT platform, the content will be aired for free. Depending on the feedback, Prasar Bharti will fix the charges after the first few years. “As of now, we are working to launch it in August,” the official quoted earlier said.

The Prasar Bharti board has approved a list of content providers for the OTT platform. The list includes Sri Adhikari brothers, big names of television content production, producer and director Vipul Shah, who produced The Kerala story, and actor Kabir Bedi, among others.

“We have had a meeting with the content providers and given them the broad outline of what we want. They will now get back to us with their concept note,” the official said.

The government had started working on the plan to launch its OTT platform sometime last year. In September 2023, Prasar Bharti floated a draft tender to design, develop, commission, operate and maintain its own OTT streaming platform for its “content available and for the reach of all the citizens in India, even remotest villages as well as global audience”.

Private OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar have previously got into government’s crosshairs over the content they air.

In March, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had blocked public access to 18 OTT platforms and social media accounts associated with them for airing and publishing “vulgar and obscene” content under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Prior to this, in May 2023, a parliamentary panel had summoned representatives from OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime and told them to desist from airing “obscene and abusive” content. ThePrint

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