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Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar under regulation threat as SC issues notice to centre

The Supreme Court was hearing an appeal challenging the February 8 order of the Delhi High Court order which had dismissed it. The appeal filed by an NGO alleged that the online media streaming platforms show "uncertified, sexually explicit and vulgar" content

The Supreme Court Friday issued a notice to the Centre on a plea seeking guidelines to regulate the functioning of online media streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and hotstar. Earlier the same plea was dismissed by Delhi High Court on February 8, 2019.

The petition has been filed by an NGO seeking the government's response on the plea and also alleged that the online media streaming platforms show "uncertified, sexually explicit and vulgar" content.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna issued notices to the Ministries of Information & Broadcasting, Law and Communications.

The high court had rejected the petition by NGO, Justice For Rights Foundation, after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had informed it that online platforms are not required to obtain any licence from it.

The plea, filed through advocate H S Hora in the top court, said these online web platforms are functioning in India without obtaining licence which has been admitted by the ministries concerned in their affidavit filed before the high court on February 4.

"The said online platforms are displaying unlicenced, unregulated, uncertified content and collecting subscription amounts from Indian consumers whereas the content telecasted on the online platforms is illegal to the extent that certain movies banned under the provisions of the Indian Cinematograph Act and not even passed by the Central Board for Film Certification but are allowed to be telecasted for the general populace by bypassing the law of the land," the plea said.

It added that due to lack of any licence or regulating body, the respondents via their inaction are creating a special class of broadcasters and therefore discriminating against the customers, regular movie producers, Cable-TV operators and D2H operators.

"The impugned judgment of February 8 (of high court) only presents the petitioner with remedies that are available after the content has been broadcast, however, the petitioner had also raised the contention that such content must be certified by a certifying body as the content on these web platforms is broadcasted for consumption of general public," the plea said.

In January this year, Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Arre, SonyLiv, ALT Balaji, Netflix and Eros Now, also known as Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs), have signed a Self-Regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).

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