Registration for OTT platforms mandatory

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has drafted a policy making registration mandatory for domestic and foreign online streaming platforms to continue their operations in Bangladesh.

The ministry drafted the policy and submitted it to the Supreme Court on Monday to comply with its policy issued in January 2020, after hearing a public interest litigation motion filed by Supreme Court Counsel Md Tanvir Ahmed.

A jury of Justices JBM Hassan and Justices Razik-Al-Jalil asked the government to update the court on October 19 on the next development of the draft directive.

The court, examining the draft directive, found that any citizen who feels offended by a provision of the directive can go to court and challenge the legality of the provision.

The policy prohibits the streaming of talk shows or news other than live or recorded broadcasts from authorized television stations.

In the guideline, the Ministry has defined the content for streaming offers, which are popularly referred to as OTT (over-the-top) platforms.

Various entertainment programming, drama, cinema, documentaries, fiction, non-fiction, sporting events, docu-fiction, infotainment – ​​also known as soft news – advertising, video on demand, live or pre-recorded content from authorized television channels other than news or talk shows have been defined as OTT -Content as per policy.

It prohibits the streaming of such content as contrary to the liberation ideology, disturbing communal harmony, threatening the order and integrity of the state, defying the country’s existing laws, negating national culture and damaging social value.

It also bans the streaming of content that disregards the national anthem, the national flag, the basic principles of state politics, and the spirit of the liberation war.

The policy prohibits OTT platforms from streaming content that stimulates sexual desire in children, offends religious sensibilities, promotes extremism, communalism, disrupts social and state stability, and content that has been prohibited by court judgments or by state laws .

As required by the Directive, national and foreign streaming platforms will have until the draft Content-based Over-The-Top (OTT) Service Providing and Operation and Display of Advertising Guidelines 2021 comes into force.

The policy prohibits video streaming of programs or advertisements over the Internet or other technology in the country without registration.

An OTT registration seeker must deposit a cashier’s check or money order for Tk5,000 with the Ministry along with the application, while the requirement for a foreign applicant is a cashier’s check or money order for Tk25,000 along with the application.

In particular, applicants must indicate in their applications the purpose for which an OTT is operated and the types of content they intend to stream.

The Ministry of Information, after examining the applications, would send them to the Ministry of the Interior to obtain security clearance certificates, while the applications submitted by foreigners would be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to obtain security clearance certificates.

Once registered with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, applicants would have to update their registration every three years with the payment of Tk 3,000 for a domestic applicant and Tk 10,000 for a foreign applicant.

The draft directive is needed to prevent the posting of immoral video content on streaming platforms and impose VAT on all streaming platforms to operate their businesses, said Tanvir Ahmed, who submitted the written petition to regulate OTT content.

Reza-E-Raquib Khandaker, who performed for the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, told New Age that the BTRC had previously submitted a draft policy titled “Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission Regulation for Digital and Social Media Platforms 2021.”

BTRC’s draft directive, which had required registration for social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, to operate within the country, drew criticism from right-wing defenders.

According to the regulations, the Commission had drawn up a strict code of conduct that would be binding on the users of these platforms.

The Commission had also made it compulsory for social media platforms and other public online platforms to take action against users in the event of a breach of the code of conduct.

Actions in this draft policy included blocking content and users for violating the code of conduct.

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