OTT Leaders Push Back On Top-Down Regulation

As digital entertainment content booms both on desktop and mobile in India, industry players are having to navigate questions around statutory regulation, which has not been a major issue in this space until now.

Earlier this year, India’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting set up a panel to regulate online media, but senior executives in the digital entertainment industry firmly believe that self-regulation is the only way forward, arguing that OTT is very different to television and print.

“Regulation for the OTT is a complete no-no because it’s an informed choice given to consumers to decide what they want to watch, so with that sort of a principle, there is no question of regulation,” Amrita Mukherjee, SVP Legal for digital content at Hotstar, told the recent Pixels 2018 conference in Mumbai.

“The way it should operate should be through self-regulation,” she said. “We are all responsible companies here.” (For more, read WARC’s report: Self-regulation: the way forward in India’s OTT media.)

Other speakers argued that any form of regulation in digital content – self-imposed or otherwise – should keep the changing interests of the Indian consumer in mind, and not over-reach to censor new ideas or stifle innovation.

“We have always looked at regulation as a top-down thing because there was a licensing regime in broadcast media and there is other regulatory oversight in various other media, including television, movies and radio,” noted Ajay Chacko, co-founder and CEO of Arre, an Indian entertainment content platform.

“We have reached almost 400 million people without having any sort of formal regulatory overhang, so anything that we talk about – whether it’s regulation or self-regulation – should not kill the growth of the industry and the growth of consumer choices,” he said.

Echoing Mukherjee, he stressed the issue of informed choice for ITT viewers. “We are asking if we can have relatively common disclosure norms across the industry, especially when it comes to professionally created or curated content.

“What framework this adopts should not forget the principle of informed choice, which should be the bedrock of any regulatory regime.” – WARC

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