I&B secretary seeks suggestions on regulating OTT, digital media platforms

MUMBAI: Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry secretary Amit Khare has sought suggestions on the issue of regulation of over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital media.

Speaking at the joint Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) event, Khare said that the regulatory issues arising out of the convergence of technologies need to be addressed.

Khare noted that there is a separate regulator for press, film certification and broadcast, but all these technologies are now converging on a single device. He was speaking at the inauguration of a three-day training programme on ‘Emerging Trends in Broadcasting’.

“So these are the challenges — fast-paced changes in technology, the convergence of technologies, and the regulatory issues arising out of these challenges,” he said.

He stated that the I&B ministry places a lot of importance on technological changes and would welcome all the ideas particularly regarding OTT and the growth of digital media and how it needs to be regulated.

“We are also meeting the film industry and content creators in Mumbai tomorrow at another seminar to discuss about OTT,” he said.

Khare’s remarks come close on the heels of I&B minister Prakash Javadekar’s suggestion that there should be some kind of regulation for OTT platforms on the lines of print, television and films.

Khare said that the challenges of fast-paced technological changes and technology convergence have also added huge opportunities.

“We are thinking of providing internet to about 20 million households in another 2-3 years because the same cables which are providing TV content, with slight modifications and if we can have a two-way switch, can be used to provide internet. This opens a huge opportunity for employment and self-employment,” he said.

Khare said the broadcast industry has grown to the extent that out of the 298 million households in India, 197 million households have access to the television broadcast.

TRAI chairman RS Sharma said regulatory systems are generally reactive. “Any regulatory mechanism must not stifle the growth, it must not stifle innovation. It must facilitate growth and innovation. At the same time, it must do it in an orderly manner. There comes the philosophy of minimal regulation,” he said.

Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) Chairman Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, who inaugurated the training session, said from the judicial point of view the issues that need to be looked at in the matter of regulation are freedom of speech and expression as well as the right to privacy.

The training programme is being attended by delegates from 17 countries, mainly from the Asia-Pacific region.

There will be a large number of domestic participants at this programme, representing various stakeholders such as government departments, broadcasters, distributors of DTH and cable industry, various OTT players, and academia.

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