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Will news channels find a place on Hotstar, SonyLIV as Govt clarifies FDI rules for digital media?

Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLIV stopped carrying news channels from July 1, 2021, owing to ambiguity in IT Rules

TV news channels will likely return on foreign OTT players such as Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLiv as the government clarified the FDI clause in IT Rules, 2020 almost after two years.

Disney+ Hotstar and SonyLIV stopped carrying news channels from July 1, 2021, owing to ambiguity in IT Rules.

I&B Ministry Friday clarified that when an OTT platform is hosting the digital feed of a TV news channel granted permission under the extant Uplinking & Downlinking Guidelines, only as a medium and makes it available to its subscribers/users, such an OTT platform is not covered under the 26% FDI rule.

The ministry in its clarification said, “TV news channels granted permission under the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines, 2022 of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and their entities operating the digital news content are already covered by FDI policy of the Central Government. Accordingly, when an OTT platform hosts the digital feed of a TV news channel (granted permission under the extant Guidelines), the stipulation of an FDI limit of 26% with Government approval route would not apply to the OTT platform for the mere activity of hosting such feed.”

Although the FDI cap was announced in August 2019 and its detailed norms were released in August 2020, the ambiguity in the new IT Rules added to the fear among OTT players and forced them to do away with news channels.

The new FDI policy stated that all news aggregators such as Dailyhunt fall under the 26% cap and OTT players were not clear whether they will fall under the definition of a news aggregator or an intermediary if they carry news channels.

The new IT Rules, 2020 also mandated that all content on the OTT platforms should be rated.

The OTT platforms told the government that they only provide a platform for the carriage of third-party news and current affairs content of news channels on an 'as is basis' without any editorial intervention.

“OTT platforms are not involved in any aggregation/curation of the news and current affairs content provided by such channels but are only hosting the news feed provided by such entities much similar to a DTH or cable service provider,” they told the government.

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