Even as some OTT services like Disney+Hotstar had taken off third-party news channels from their platforms sometime in 2021, owing to ambiguity relating to news channels’ FDI restrictions applying to streamers or not, the Indian government yesterday issued a clarification.
“It is… clarified that when an OTT platform is hosting digital feed of a TV news channel, granted permission under the extant Uplinking & Downlinking Guidelines, only as a medium and makes it available to its subscribers/users, such a OTT platform is not covered under the 26 percent FDI rule,” the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) said in an advisory yesterday.
The Ministry had received several representations from chambers of commerce like FICCI and CII, and OTT platforms (covered under the IT Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021) who had sought a clarification as to whether the 26 percent FDI limit, meant for publishers of digital news, also applied to the host of such digital channels and the digital avatars of linear TV news channels
Industry representations had added OTT players only provide a platform for carriage of third party news and current affairs news channels on ‘as is basis’ without any editorial intervention and that OTT platforms were not involved in any aggregation/curation of the news and current affairs content provided by such channels as they were merely hosting the news feed provided by media outlets — an activity that was similar to a DTH or a cable service provider.
The government statement yesterday said relevant FDI rules were updated by the Commerce Ministry in October 2020 relating to FDI in entities engaged in uploading/streaming news and current affairs on digital media.
“The objective of the decision of the government vide the aforementioned Press Note (an amended Press Note 4 of 2019) is to ensure that entities engaged in the activity of publishing/curating/aggregating news and current affairs content and uploading/streaming the same through digital media would have a FDI limit up to 26 percent through the government approval route,” the MIB advisory explained.
But, since TV news channels, granted permission under the Uplinking and Downlinking Guidelines, 2022 (and the earlier Guidelines of 2005 and 2011), and their entities operating the digital news content are already covered by the FDI policy of the central or the federal government, OTT platforms hosting such content didn’t fall under the 26 percent FDI limit meant for digital news publishers, it said.