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Parliamentary panel may summon OTT companies over demand for content regulation

The panel was informed that SonyLiv received the highest number of complaints regarding content between January 2022 and March 2023, followed by Amazon Prime received and Netflix

A parliamentary panel may summon OTT players - including Amazon Prime, Netflix and SonyLiv - after several of its members sought more control on these platforms.

This comes as the debate over the regulation of OTT content has been ongoing, with some arguing that the government should regulate content to protect audiences, especially minors, while others suggest that regulation could limit creativity and freedom of expression.

According to media reports, top officials of the I&B Ministry, including Secretary Apurva Chandra, discussed the matter of the emergence of OTT platforms and related issues with the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communications and Information Technology on Monday. 

The reports mentioned that the panel was informed that SonyLiv received 4,063 complaints regarding content between January 2022 and March 2023. During the same period, Amazon Prime received 3,203 grievances and Netflix received 401. There were no complaints filed against Disney+ Hotstar during this time period, however. 

At the meeting, MPs from the ruling party in the Centre sought greater control over OTT platforms, citing the "vulgarity" shown on these platforms. They believe this has a negative impact on "Bhartiya Sanskriti". The ruling MPs clarified that they are not in favour of censorship similar to what is seen in the movie industry but they believe that there is a strong case for more control of the OTTs. 

During the meeting, MPs from the Opposition stated that the OTT platforms are open in nature and that there should be a thoughtful approach towards increasing regulation on them. According to the media reports, officials from the Ministry stated in response to members' queries that they have measures in place to monitor OTT content in accordance with IT regulations. 

Officials informed the MPs that there are three different ways to address the complaints of OTT subscribers. The first level involves the publisher, followed by the self-regulatory mechanism of OTT bodies at the second level, and finally the government at the third level.

The 31-member panel consists of political parties and is chaired by Prataprao Jadhav from Shiv Sena. Additionally, some film personalities turned politicians, including Shatrughan Sinha, are also part of the panel.

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