12 November 2020
- Announcement of No DNS till 15th and DNS Weekly Answer Writing
- Govt. to govern OTT platforms (Polity & Governance)
- Home Ministry amends FCRA rules (Polity & Governance)
- GDP shrank 8.6% in Q2 pushing economy into a recession (Indian Economy)
- Social infra PPPs eligible for viability gap funding (Indian Economy)
- 1.46 lakh crore outlay over 5 years - (Indian Economy)
- Question for the day (Indian Economy)
UPSC Current Affairs: Govt. to govern OTT platforms| Page 1
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current events of national and international importance| Mains – GS Paper II – Polity
Sub Theme: Regulatory bodies| UPSC
Government brought “Over the Top” (OTT) platforms like video streaming service providers like Netflix, Amazon Prime, digital news and current affairs content and others under the ambit of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Currently, there is no law or autonomous body governing digital content. In October last year, the government had indicated that it would issue a “negative” list of don’ts for video streaming services like Netflix and Hotstar. It also wanted the platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body on the lines of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority.
Though there is no regulatory mechanism for OTTs as of now, all such platforms come under the Information technology Act, 2000 as they qualify to be called as Intermediaries. Section 79 of the IT Act, intermediaries must exercise due diligence while streaming content. The Guidelines for due diligence have also been framed by the government in 2011.
What is an Over-The-Top platform (OTT)?
- OTTs are streaming media services that streams content online. They stream content directly on internet through some means such as applications.
- The term OTT is generally used to describe the video-on-demand platforms like Netflix, Amazon prime, etc but OTTs also include audio streaming, messaging, internet-based voice calling services.
- OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the companies that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content.
- Content is streamed over the public Internet, rather than a closed, private network with proprietary equipment such as set-top boxes.
- OTT is also used by traditional distributor of content to live stream specialty channels.
Why there is a call for regulation of OTT platforms?
The issue of content regulation has always been important in India because of the diverse nature of Indian society in terms of religion, economic status, caste and language. Therefore, the effect that OTT has on society forms the basis of its regulation by the state.
The article 19 which gives a fundamental right to freedom of expression comes with reasonable restrictions of decency and public morality, public order, defamation, incitement to offences, etc.
The principle of fairness
The government is trying to bring level playing field in different media
Traditional media in India are regulated under specific laws such as:
- Films are regulated under the Cinematograph Act of 1952—which provides for the certification of cinematograph films for public exhibition.
- The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 —that applies to content appearing on cable televisions.
However, there is no such specific law for regulation of content over OTT platforms.
OTT providers do not have to get involved in the inception, transmission and reception of the content which make them not liable for the content under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Section 79 of Information Technology Act, 2000
It exempts intermediaries from liability in certain instances. It states that intermediaries will not be liable for any third party information, data or communication link made available by them.
Regulators of media in India
- Press Council of India for print media
- Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for films.
- News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for TV news channels
- Advertising Standards Council of India for advertising
A recent survey suggests that almost 55% Indians prefer OTT over DTH services and almost 87% of Indians use mobile to watch videos these days. According to KPMG Report, India will have more than 500 million subscribers on all OTT platforms by 2023.During the pandemic lockdown, several OTT platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar, Alt Balaji, Zee5 have witnessed huge jump in their subscription.
As movie halls are closed due to lockdown, several production houses have released their movies directly on OTT.
The telecom and media & entertainment should be on equal footing in terms of adjusted gross revenue (AGR). Officials say that we cannot have two different rates of AGR for telecom sector and M&E sector for DTH providers. So, there is a need to convergence.
The Ministry of Health observed a violation of anti-tobacco rules by these online video streaming platform.
OTT platforms had signed a self-regulation code under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India. However, there’s no consensus on the code amongst the various OTT platforms operating in India.
What are the benefits of the OTT platforms?
Convenience and choice for consumers
Freedom of creativity
As the medium working on Internet which is relatively free from the regulations and censorship norms, it gives a free hand to the content creators to experiment without the fear of getting censored in the end. OTTs are relatively new and free from formulaic content generation and accepted public morality standards, they are highly liberated medium for creative art.
Support to new talent
They provide sufficient support and space for new age creative people to express themselves freely without any status-quo restrictions. It introduces local talent to some of the finest content creators and their content and makes way for an easy give and take of artistic genius.
Connecting local to global
The OTT platforms that are currently in boom are foreign-western owned. They are big companies which are ready to stream content with local context and flair.
Anticipating the government’s intervention in January 2019, eight video streaming services had signed a self-regulatory code that laid down a set of guiding principles for the content on these platforms.
The code adopted by the OTTs in January prohibited five types of content –
Content which deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag.
Anything visual or a storyline that promotes child pornography.
Any content that “maliciously” intends to outrage religious sentiments.
Content that “deliberately and maliciously” promotes or encourages terrorism.
Any content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by law or a Court
The government had refused to support this code.
In times of fast changing entertainment media, government and other stakeholders must come together to bring proper framework that will balance the freedom of expression and necessary restrictions for the sake of law and order. Other countries of the world such as China and USA have come forward to device laws in the wake of progress in artificial intelligence and Internet-of-things. India with its huge diversity and demographic nature cannot remain behind.
UPSC Current Affairs:Home Ministry amends FCRA rules| Page 10
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III – Economy
Sub Theme: Regulations for foreign funding |UPSC
Context: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has relaxed norms for farmer, student, religious and other groups who are not directly aligned to any political party to receive foreign funds if the groups are not involved in “active politics”. MHA has amended FCRA 2011 Rules based on recent Supreme Court Judgment.
Grounds for categorisation - Under Rule 3 of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Rules, 2011, Central Government can specify any organisation as organisation of political nature on one or more of the following grounds –
- Organisation having political objectives in its Memorandum of Association or its bye-laws.
- Any Trade Union whose objectives include activities for promoting political goals
- Any voluntary action group with objectives of a political nature or which participates in political activities.
- Front or mass organisations like Students Unions, Workers’ Unions, Youth Forums and Women’s wing of a political party.
- Organisation of farmers, workers, students, youth based on caste, community, religion, language etc. which is not directly aligned to any political party, but whose objectives or activities include steps towards advancement of political interests of such groups.
- An organisation which habitually engages itself in or employs common methods of political action like ‘bandh’ or ‘hartal’, ‘rasta roko’, ‘rail roko’ or ‘jail bharo’ in support of public causes.
Amendment made by MHA
- Organisations of farmers, workers, students, youths based on caste, community, religion, language or others will only be considered as a political group if they participate in “active politics or party politics”.
- Such groups or organisation can receive foreign funds if not involved in active politics or party politics.
Summary of the SC Judgment
Supreme Court has held that Central government cannot brand an organisation as ‘political’ to deprive it from receiving foreign funds under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 for legitimate forms of dissent to aid a public cause. (unless proved that such activities are part of active politics or to aid political cause).
- Organisation supporting agitation without political cause cannot be penalised - Any organisation which supports the cause of a group of citizens agitating for their rights without a political goal or objective cannot be penalized by being declared as an organisation of a political nature.
- Organisations supporting bandhs need not be for political cause - Organizations that support public causes by resorting to legitimate means for dissent such as organizing bandhs, hartals, strikes etc. shall not come within the ambit of the ban in terms of the FCRA.
- Need for Balance between objectives of FCRA & Rights of Organisation - A balance has to be drawn between the object that is sought to be achieved by the legislation and the rights of the voluntary organisations to have access to foreign funds.
- Ensure values of a sovereign democratic republic are protected - The purpose for which the law prevents organisations of a political nature from receiving foreign funds is to ensure that the administration is not influenced by foreign funds. Prohibition from receiving foreign aid, either directly or indirectly, by those who are involved in active politics is to ensure that the values of a sovereign democratic republic are protected.
- Organisation having no connection with active politics can use foreign aid - Such voluntary organisations which have absolutely no connection with either party politics or active politics cannot be denied access to foreign contributions.
- Organisation channeling foreign funds for political parties - Court held that those organisations which channel foreign funds for political parties are strictly prohibited to receive foreign funds under FCRA.
UPSC Current Affairs: ‘GDP shrank 8.6% in Q2 pushing economy into a recession’| Page 14
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains: GS Paper-III - Economy
Sub Theme: Economic growth| UPSC
India’s economy rebounded sharply in the wake of the reopening from lockdowns, slowing the pace of its contraction to 8.6% in the second quarter. (-23.9% in Q1)
The estimate implies that India is likely to have entered a technical recession in the first half of 2020-21 for the first time in its history.
Recession is defined as a fall in the overall economic activity for two consecutive quarters (six months) accompanied by a decline in income, sales and employment.
In independent India's history, four such years of negative GDP growth were registered. They saw contraction of -1.2% (FY58), -3.66% (FY66), -0.32% (FY73) and -5.2% (FY80). The economic contraction in the next quarter of 2020-21 could see India entering into its 5th Recession in its economic history.
It is for the first time that India has recorded contraction in the quarterly GDP data since it started publishing GDP data on a quarterly basis since 1996. Further, India has seen contraction in GDP for the first time in the last 41 years since 1979.
Rise in Household Financial Savings
Household financial savings refer to the total currency, bank deposits, debt securities, mutual funds, pension funds, insurance, and investments in small savings schemes. Once financial liabilities, including loans from banks, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs), and housing finance companies, are subtracted from gross savings, what remains is referred to as net household financial savings.
There has been jump in household financial savings to 21.4 per cent of GDP in Q1: 2020-21, up from 7.9 per cent in Q1 and 10.0 per cent in Q4: 2019-20.
- COVID 19-led reduced the discretionary expenditure
- Surge in precautionary saving despite stagnant/reduced income.
- The rise in subscription to insurance products reflects the pandemic-led increased awareness of life insurance amongst the households faced with a health crisis.
- The gap between credit extended and deposits mobilised during the Q1: 2020-21 contributed to the spike in household financial savings as the financial instruments relating to banks continue to dominate the household financial assets and liabilities.
UPSC Current Affairs: Social infra PPPs eligible for viability gap funding |Page 14
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper II – Economy
Sub Theme: Investment models| UPSC
The government on Wednesday expanded the provision of financial support by means of viability gap funding for public private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure projects to include critical social sector investments in sectors such as health, education, water and waste treatment.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the continuation of the scheme for financial support to PPPs in infrastructure that has been in place since 2006, till 2024-25.
Private sector projects in areas like waste water treatment, solid waste management, health, water supply and education, could get 30% of total project cost from the Centre. States could chip in with another 30%.
Viability Gap Funding (VGF)
· Viability Gap Funding (VGF) means a grant one-time or deferred, provided to support infrastructure projects that are economically justified but fall short of financial viability.
· Projects that are economically justified but commercially unviable due to large capital investment requirements, long gestation periods and the inability to increase user charges to commercial levels.
· The VGF scheme was launched in 2004 to support projects that comes under Public Private Partnerships.
· VGF up to 40% of the Total Project Cost (TPC) is provided by the Government of India (Gol) and the sponsoring authority in the form of capital grant at the stage of project construction (20%+20%).
· If the sponsoring Ministry/State Government/ statutory entity aims to provide assistance over and above the stipulated amount under VGF, it will be restricted to a further 20% of the total project cost.
· The project agreements must also follow the best practices that would secure value for public money. Regular monitoring and evaluation should be done by the lead financial institutions for the disbursal of the grants.
Extension of the Scheme to Social Infrastructure
Sub Scheme -1:
- Objective:To cater Social Sectors such as Waste Water Treatment, Water Supply, Solid Waste Management, Health and Education sectors
- These projects face bankability issues and poor revenue streamsto cater fully to capital costs.
- Eligibility: The projects eligible under this category should have at least 100% Operational Cost recovery.
- Contribution:The Central Government will provide a maximum of 30% of Total Project Cost (TPC) as VGF and State Government/Sponsoring Central Ministry/Statutory Entity may provide additional support up to 30% of TPC and the remaining project cost will come through private participation.
Sub Scheme -2:
- Objective:To support pilot social sectors projects.
- The projects may be from Health and Educationsectors where there is at least 50% Operational Cost recovery.
- Contribution:In such projects, the Central Government and the State Governments together will provide up to 80% of capital expenditure and upto 50% of Operation & Maintenance (O&M) costs for the first five years.
- TheCentral Government will provide a maximum of 40% of the TPC. In addition, it may provide a maximum of 25% of Operational Costs of the project in the first five years of commercial operations.
UPSC Current Affairs: ₹1.46 lakh crore outlay over 5 years|Page 14
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy| Mains – GS Paper III – Economy
Sub Theme: Government Budgeting | UPSC