OTT draft rules prohibit news, talk-show broadcast
The information ministry yesterday submitted to the High Court a draft of the OTT (Over-The-Top) regulations prohibiting broadcast of news or talk-shows, except for the contents defined in the draft, on the OTT platforms.
The HC bench of Justice JBM Hassan and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil fixed October 19 for passing an order on the issue, and asked the ministry and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to keep it updated about future developments.
According to the draft, OTT is a type of media service that broadcasts entertainment programmes, drama, movie, documentary, sports, infotainment, advertisement and video on demand or telecast permitted contents of television channels live through internet or equivalent technology in Bangladesh.
It further said no news and talk-shows, except for the contents defined in the draft, can be run on the OTT platforms in any manner.
It has also banned all contents that go against the spirit of the Liberation War, the country's culture and social values; damage communal harmony; create threats to state discipline and its unitary form; and contradict the existinglaws.
Complying with an earlier HC directive, Deputy Attorney General Tushar Kanti Roy placed the draft, "Over-The-Top (OTT) Content Based Service Providing and Conduct Regulation-2021", before the HC.
The BTRC also submitted a draft on "the Regulation for Digital and Social Media Platforms, 2021" through its lawyer Khandaker Reza-E-Raquib to the HC during the hearing on a writ petition filed over the issue.
Talking to The Daily Star, writ petitioner and Supreme Court lawyer Md Tanvir Ahmed said the information ministry drafted the OTT regulations prohibiting the publication and broadcast of news or talk-shows, except for the contents defined in the draft, on digital platforms, which may be passed as a law by parliament.
"I am not competent enough to say whether the regulations may hamper the freedom of press and expression," he said.
DAG Tushar Kanti Roy declined to comment on the regulations, saying he was yet to go through the draft.
In July 2020, Tanvir submitted to the HC the writ petition as a public interest litigation saying several OTT platforms contain questionable and obscene contents and films from Bangladesh and India. Those contents cause moral degradation of people, particularly the juvenile and the youths.
The ministry's draft said the national anthem, the national flag, the state principles and the spirit of the Liberation War cannot be insulted by any content intentionally or out of prejudice.
The OTT platforms cannot broadcast sexual contents involving children or contents that hurt religious sentiment of the nation and communities, encourage communalism and militancy, and harm the stability of the state and society.
They also cannot telecast contents prohibited by the existing laws or broadcast something that can damage Bangladesh's friendly relations with other countries.
If a registered platform broadcasts any banned content in violation of the regulation, the relevant authority under the information ministry will direct the OTT platform to remove the content, and the platform will be bound to do so. The law enforcement agencies will provide all types of assistance in this regard.
Every OTT service provider has to appoint an official for disposal of the complaints.
If it fails to settle the complaint in 21 working days, the complainant can appeal to the relevant authority which will dispose of the complaint after hearing both sides.
The objective of the regulations is to nurture creativity and ensure freedom of speech, the draft said.
The BTRC's draft regulations prohibit any content that "creates unrest or disorder or deteriorates or advances to deteriorate law and order situation" or "is offensive, false or threatening and insulting or humiliating to a person".
It also forbids contents that threatens the "unity, integrity, defence, security, or sovereignty of Bangladesh, [and its] friendly relations with foreign states", and also contents that are against the spirit of the Liberation War, the father of the nation, the national anthem or the national flag, or anything that "threatens the secrecy of the government".
Every social media intermediary will have to appoint an official to deal with complaints and a compliance officer to ensure due diligence, and also an agent to maintain liaison with law enforcement agencies and the BTRC, the draft mentioned.