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Disney+ Hotstar has removed live news channels from its platform: here’s why

Highlights

  • Disney+ Hotstar has removed all live news channels from its platform
  • The news channels have been removed starting July 1st
  • This move comes due to due to ambiguity over the new IT Rules, 2021

Disney+ Hotstar has removed all live news channels from its platform starting July 1st. This move comes after the new IT Rules 2021 mandated OTT platforms to rate all content on their platform and it’s impossible to rate news. Disney+ Hotstar is not the first OTT platform to remove live news channels. SonyLiv was the first to do so and Zee5, Voot, and Airtel Xstream apps have done this as well.

Also read: IT Rules 2021: why is WhatsApp suing the Indian government?

OTT platforms like Disney+ Hotstar, Zee5, and others have cited the 26 percent FDI cap in online news as one of the reasons to drop live news channels from their platforms. The ambiguity over whether or not they will be seen as a news aggregator or an intermediary if they carry news channels has forced these platforms to do away with the channels entirely. Here’s what happened and why OTT platforms have removed the live news channels.

Disney+ Hotstar removes all live news channels on its platform

Disney+ Hotstar removes live news channels from its platform

Disney+ Hotstar removes live news channels from its platform

Disney+ Hotstar showed a ticker on its platform under every live news channel stating that starting July 1st, all live news channels will be removed from the platform. At the time of writing this article, the Star India-owned platform has removed all live news channels and also the Live News tab from its website as well as the app.

As mentioned before, not just Disney+ Hotstar but other OTT platforms like SonyLIV, VOOT, and ZEE5 have also removed live new channels from their platforms. Prior to this, news channels were a key traffic generator for OTT channels and third-party live channels contributed significantly to the consumption of these platforms.

IT Rules 2021: why do OTT apps have to remove live news channels?

According to the IT Rules Part III, OTT platforms are required to classify content based on their type as  ‘U’, ‘U/A 7+’, ‘U/A 13+’, ‘U/A 16+’, and ‘A’ (Paragraph II(B) of Appendix). OTT platforms are now required to make sure that any content classified as U/A13+ and above should have access control measures. And any content rated ‘A’ should have a reliable age verification method in place of the viewership of such content to restrict minors from accessing it.

While the IT Rules 2021 mention that online curated content doesn’t include news and current affairs, it also states that all content on the platform should be rated based on age classification. Since there’s ambiguity over whether news channels require  rating, and also because it’s difficult to rate news as a whole, OTT channels have decided to simply remove news channels to be on the safer side.

The IT Rule’s self-regulation report states, “Every publisher of online curated content shall display the rating of any ‘online curated content’ and an explanation of the relevant content descriptors, prominently to its users at an appropriate place, as the case may be, in a manner that ensures that such users are aware of this information before accessing such content.”

Now, online curated content here refers to audio-visual content, which is owned by or licensed to a publisher and made available on demand. By definition, online curated content doesn’t include news and current affairs. But the ‘content classification’ section under the ‘Code of Ethics’ mentions, “All content transmitted or published or exhibited by a publisher of online curated content shall be classified, based on the nature and type of content, into the following rating categories.

Despite the fact that the above content classification is under the title online curated content, which doesn’t include news channels, the term “all content” has caused ambiguity as to whether news channels need to be rated or not. It is possible that once OTT platforms have more clarification on the rules, these news channels will be available on various platforms once again.

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Abhiman Biswas

Abhiman is obsessed with all things tech. His hobbies include reading on his Kindle and clicking random pictures on his phone. His secret superpowers happen to be mixing great cocktails and lip reading. In his spare time, you are likely to find him cleaning his aquascape, researching new species of aquatic fishes and planning which aquatic plants to buy next.