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    Sony Opposes Inclusion of Streaming Services in National Broadcasting Policy

    Online curated content providers (OCCPs) should be kept outside the scope of the National Broadcasting Policy, Sony argues, commenting on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) consultation on the policy. The company points to part III of the Information Technology (IT) Rules (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Ethics Code) which applies to OCCPs (streaming services like SonyLiv, Netflix, and Amazon Prime), and explains that they have already set out regulations for streaming services. This includes age classification, content descriptors, parental controls, and a three-tiered self-regulatory structure to name a few.

    “Inclusion of OCCPs within the Policy, would not only result in immense confusion within a well-settled environment but would make the entire ecosystem of digital media counterproductive,” Sony argues. It points out that there are stark differences between broadcasting and streaming services. While broadcasting “pushes” certain fixed content onto its viewers, streaming services allow individual viewers to “pull” a piece of content of their choice by deciding what they view. TV broadcasting also depends on satellites and needs distribution platform operators to transmit content, the same isn’t true for streaming services. Further, according to a judgment by the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal, an over-the-top platform (OTT) is not a TV channel. As such, separate laws should govern either service.

    Sony mentions that OTTs are a part of the draft Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2023, adding that the Information Technology Act, 2000 (and the rules under it which currently regulate streaming services) are also to be replaced by the Digital India Act. With all of this considered, OCCPs and OTT platforms should be kept outside the purview of policy. Instead, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) should let the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Indian Parliament take the first step in setting up a light-touch regulatory framework for OTT platforms.

    What Sony thinks the broadcasting policy should look like:


    • The policy should aim to champion the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and expression, ensuring that broadcasting remains a potent tool for the widespread dissemination of information, education, and entertainment.
    • It should seek to propel the broadcasting sector as a catalyst for intellectual property creation, global promotion of Indian culture, connectivity of the Indian diaspora, and a generator of employment opportunities.
    • It should aim to embody the ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’ principle, advocating for minimum regulatory intervention and trust self-regulatory mechanisms.

    Objectives of the policy:

    • A self-regulatory framework and forbearance
    • Nurture creativity and foster innovation
    • Provide flexibility and adaptability to changing circumstances
    • Recognize, protect, and provide an ecosystem for the enforcement of intellectual property rights

    What should the policy for online gaming be?

    Sony points out that after a 2022 amendment to the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, MeitY has been appointed as the nodal ministry for matters related to online gaming. As such, the IT Rules were amended in 2023 through which a self-regulatory framework has been set up for online gaming intermediaries. Different state legislatures have created laws for online gaming as well. As such, TRAI should exclude online gaming from the scope of the policy.

    No need for a converged framework for telecom and broadcasting sectors:

    The company points out that bundling different services (TV, broadband, and voice) doesn’t imply that the services have converged. Each service within the bundle still remains distinct, and given the differences between telecom and broadcasting services, the licensing framework for the two should be kept distinct. Similarly, the administrative government units overseeing the licensing and statutory frameworks for the two should also be kept separate, as per the existing framework.

    How should piracy concerns be addressed in the policy?

    Broadcasting is a content-driven industry, and it is important to prioritize strong protection for intellectual property. However, there is limited recourse for broadcasters against piracy under the cable TV regulations/TRAI regulatory framework. They currently have to look to the Copyright Act for legal recourse but the same is not very effective. As such, Sony argues that there is a need for inter-ministerial cooperation to address challenges like cable television piracy.

    Sony reiterates that digital platforms are outside TRAI’s jurisdiction and as such should be left outside the scope of the policy. However, notwithstanding that, it goes on to submit that digital piracy has moved from traditional platforms such as torrent to platforms like Telegram, Oreo TV, and standalone apps that run feeds through the servers of OTT/digital platforms. The impact of these forms of piracy varies since they are preferred by different kinds of customers. To tackle the issue holistically, there is a need for a federal-level Digital Content Protection Body/cell with wide-ranging powers that can address all forms or piracy including the piracy revenue chain, repeat offenders etc. There is also a need for this body/cell to coordinate with global digital IP (intellectual property) enforcement agencies since piracy is an offence across all jurisdictions.

    The policy can streamline the administrative process of blocking websites in India. It can also help regulate rouge platforms, which are platforms that require mandatory structural modification for the protection of owned content. These include—

    • Applying a content ID for matching pirated content
    • Takedown tool to action piracy
    • Maximum strike and account suspension policy to penalize repeat offenders
    • Mandatory requirements such as know your customer (KYC) verification to identify owners of infringing channels/accounts.
    • Verification process to screen new accounts

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    The post Sony Opposes Inclusion of Streaming Services in National Broadcasting Policy appeared first on MediaNama.

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