Social Media: Prospect and Challenges

OTT Governance: Measures To Enhance Transparency


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Digital Media Ethics Code

Mains level : OTT governance In India, concerns and measures

Central Idea

  • It has been two years since the government issued the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules through which the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) was given the task of regulating content on OTT and online platforms. India’s approach can be termed as a light-touch co-regulation model where there is self-regulation at the industry level and final oversight mechanism at the Ministry level.

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What are OTT Media?

  • An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet.
  • OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the companies that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.
  • The term is most synonymous with subscription-based video-on-demand (SVoD) services that offer access to film and television content.
  • They are typically accessed via websites on personal computers, as well as via apps on mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets), digital media players, or televisions with integrated Smart TV platforms.

Digital Media Ethics Code Relating to Digital Media and OTT Platforms

  • This Code of Ethics prescribes the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and online news and digital media entities.
  1. Self-Classification of Content: Platforms must self-classify content into five age-based categories and implement parental locks and age verification mechanisms.
  2. Norms for news: Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act.
  3. Self-regulation by the Publisher: Publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take a decision on every grievance received it within 15 days.
  4. Self-Regulatory Body: Publishers can have a self-regulatory body headed by a retired judge or eminent person with up to six members. The body must register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, monitor publisher compliance with the Code of Ethics, and address grievances not resolved by publishers within 15 days.
  5. Oversight Mechanism: The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting must establish an oversight mechanism and establish an Inter-Departmental Committee to hear grievances.

Guidelines Related to social media

  • Due Diligence to Be Followed By Intermediaries: The Rules prescribe due diligence that must be followed by intermediaries, including social media intermediaries. In case, due diligence is not followed by the intermediary, safe harbour provisions will not apply to them.
  • Grievance Redressal Mechanism: The Rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.
  • Ensuring Online Safety and Dignity of Users, Especially Women Users: Intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that erodes individual privacy and dignity.

What are the concerns?

  • Low compliance and limited public awareness: OTT Rules require display of contact details for grievance redressal mechanisms and officers, but compliance is low and awareness among public is limited. Though the OTT Rules were notified in 2021, there is little awareness about them among the general public.
  • Lack of Transparency in Complaint Redressal Information: In many cases, either the complaint redressal information is not published or published in a manner that makes it difficult for a user to notice easily. In some cases, the details are not included as part of the OTT app interface.

The Singapore Model

  • In Singapore, the Infocomm Media Development Authority is the common regulator for different media.
  • Aside from instituting a statutory framework and promoting industry self-regulation, its approach to media regulation emphasises on promoting media literacy through public education.

What needs to be done?

  • Uniformity: There is a need for uniformity in displaying key information on obligations, timelines, and contact details for grievance redressal.
  • Specified rules: Rules should specify manner, text, language, and frequency for display of vital information and mandate industry associations to run campaigns in print and electronic media
  • Description in respective languages: Age ratings and content descriptors should be displayed in respective languages of the video, and shown prominently in full-screen mode for a mandatory minimum duration
  • Guidelines should be prominent in advertisements: Guidelines should ensure film classification/rating is legible and prominent in advertisements and promos of OTT content in print and electronic media.

Measures to Enhance Transparency and Accountability in OTT Platform Governance

  • Periodic Audits by Independent Body: Periodic audits should be undertaken by an independent body to check the existence and effectiveness of access controls, age verification mechanisms, and display of grievance redressal details by each OTT platform.
  • Dedicated Umbrella Website: The Ministry could facilitate a dedicated umbrella website for the publication of applicable Rules, content codes, advisories, contact details for complaints/appeals, etc.
  • Publish Complaint Details in public domain: Publish detailed complaint descriptions and decisions by OTT providers and self-regulatory bodies in the public domain; providers should upload this information on a dedicated website for transparency.
  • IDC Membership to be Broad-Based and Representative: The Inter-Departmental Committee (IDC) comprising officer-nominees from various ministries of the Central government and domain experts should be made more broad-based and representative with security of tenure.
  • Provision for Disclosure: Provision for the disclosure or publication of an apology/warning/censure on the platform or website should be incorporated in the Rules.
  • Financial Penalties: Financial penalties may be imposed on erring entities.
  • Common Guidelines for Content Governance: A common set of guidelines for content, classification, age ratings, violations, etc. should be evolved to govern content uniformly across platforms in the era of media convergence.


  • India’s OTT regulatory model aims to strike a balance between self-regulation and legal backing, aligning with global trends. The government’s efforts to enhance media literacy and transparency will not only promote effective self-regulation but also empower millions of OTT consumers. These initiatives are crucial for achieving the objective of raising India’s stature at an international level and serving as a model for other nations to emulate.

Mains Question

Q. Despite the launch of Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code there are still concerns over the OTT governance. In this backdrop Discuss what can be done to improve the transparency and safeguarding the its users?

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