The newest streaming and digital media rules of the Indian Government is a bit Confusing says Rajiv Rao
India would put Amazon and Netflix to heel.
A significant development last Wednesday signalled how the wind might blow, according to many industry watchers, when the Hindu nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a notification that could only be the beginning of things to come.
The law that stunned many notes that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will now control digital media, from Netflix to news outlets such as thewire.com, to social media sites such as Facebook, to images of your Labrador that you posted to the internet.
Until now, only print newspapers, television, films and theatre have been censored and regulated by this government branch, while internet content has effectively slid under the radar, but this luck seems to have run out.
So what does this portend rule exactly? It isn’t undeniable. The prognosis is grim for those who receive their bread and butter running these businesses.
Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist and editor of MediaNama, told the Guardian: “The fear is that with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting — essentially India’s Ministry of Truth — now in a position to regulate online news and entertainment, we will see a greater exercise of government control and censorship.”
Suppose this becomes a reality, with the spectacular explosion in smartphones and inexpensive data, all goldmines that continue to give. In that case, it will ruin the plans of businesses such as Netflix and Amazon that have seen their fortunes grow significantly in the past few years. To this pattern, the COVID age has only contributed more steam.
Netflix, keen to capitalize on this nascent segment, has now poured $400 million into the nation and gathered 2,5 million useful subscribers. PwC’s consultancy outfit estimates that India’s media and entertainment sector will rise to $2.9 billion by 2024 at a brisk 10.1 per cent rate annually.
A business like Netflix would be worried about this rise because indeed a decent chunk of its catalogue will be made out of reach for Indians if the highly censored film industries are used as a benchmark for a code that streaming platforms will have to abide by, including the big daddy of them all, Bollywood.
Although, how the I&B Ministry can wade through thousands of films, episodes, and documentaries and affix their ranking or recommend cuts where necessary is beyond me, and this is much more fantastic to consider.
However, curbing entertainment is one kind of topic to grapple with. However, the most troubling trend is the risk that the scythe will also be faced with multimedia reporting.
Most television news channels and print media in India are true government lapdogs, afraid of being critical of it. On platforms like thewire.com or scroll.com, which have rubbed the government the wrong way, the only serious news being done is in the digital sphere.
Siddharth Vardarajan, formerly head of a national newspaper in India, ironically called The Hindu, has always been in the eyes of the government of Modi. And its named allies in different states.