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Revised OTT draft bans a whole lot of content in Bangladesh

The information ministry yesterday submitted to the High Court a revised draft law on regulating the content of Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms.

The draft contains a broad list of the type of content that would be prohibited for reasons that include hurting religious sentiments and disrupting communal harmony.

The HC bench of Justice JBM Hassan and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil will pass an order on the the draft of Over-The-Top Content Based Service Providing and Conduct Regulation-2022 tomorrow.

The draft bans content that go against the spirit of the Liberation War, the country’s culture and social values, can damage communal harmony, threaten the state’s unity, and contradict the laws, regulations and the constitution.

The information ministry submitted the first draft to the court on June 12 last year.

The HC bench then asked the ministry and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to update it.

However, an OTT platform executive said representatives of the industry met the ministry officials before the latest draft was produced, but their recommendations were not taken into account.

“Hurting sentiments is an undefined matter. Any content can hurt anyone’s sentiment. These provisions will seriously limit creativity of content creators in our business,” said the executive, wishing anonymity.

Contacted, Supreme Court lawyer Rashna Imam, who has been working on the issue, said, “The draft contains an extensive list of ‘prohibited content’, which, being broadly framed and vague, are susceptible to misuse, thereby violating the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, and muzzling creativity.”

In July 2020, Supreme Court lawyer Tanvir Ahmed filed a writ petition as a public interest litigation saying several OTT platforms contained questionable and obscene content from Bangladesh and India that can cause moral degradation of the young people. The BTRC later submitted to the court a draft on the Regulation for Digital and Social Media Platforms, 2021.

What is new in the draft
The latest draft raised the amount of earnest (security deposit) money from Tk 5 lakh to Tk 15 lakh for Bangladeshi platforms, and from Tk 25 lakh to Tk 45 lakh for foreign ones.

Besides, foreign platforms must have an office here and 50 percent of their total content must be “local”.

The five-year registration fee for local platforms has been raised from TK 5 lakh to Tk 10 lakh and for foreign platforms from Tk 20 lakh to Tk 35 lakh.

Each content has to be rated for its suitability for certain audiences and there must be a parental lock to prevent children from watching content rated for above 18-year-olds.

According to the draft, OTT is a type of media service that broadcasts entertainment programmes, drama, movie, documentary, sports, infotainment, advertisement. and video-on-demand through the internet or equivalent technology in Bangladesh.

The earlier draft barred the platforms from showing TV news and talk-shows. But the new draft dropped the restriction. The Daily Star

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