Media platforms

Writing rules on media platforms to stifle growth

Two new proposed regulations on digital, social and over-the-top (OTT) media platforms will stifle industry growth, discourage foreign and local investment and likely violate fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and expression , said an expert yesterday.

The requirement to appoint compliance officers and resident officers will increase the platforms’ business costs, said lawyer Rashna Imam, who practices at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

Imam was presenting a presentation on “Regulation of Digital Platforms, Social Media and OTT: The Need to Strike the Right Balance” organized by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry at its offices.

The seminar comes at a time when the Bangladesh Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has released a draft “Regulations for Digital, Social Media and OTT Platforms 2021” while the Ministry of Information a draft Regulations on the provision of content-based OTT services and the operation and display of advertising directive 2021.

After the two projects were released, there was public outrage and non-governmental organizations and OTT and social media platforms raised concerns about it, she added.

“Also, everyone wants one settlement, not two settlements under two different regulators,” Rashna added.

Md Nasim Parvez, Managing Director of BTRC, said that BTRC had already submitted a second draft and some changes were made in consultation with social media platforms.

“We have given time to prepare the final settlement by October 19,” he said.

The European Union and Russia have imposed heavy fines on social media platforms. “In the case of Bangladesh, we have not included new rules for fines. We have only included what is in the existing telecommunications law,” he said.

He said the regulations were drafted with the aim of ensuring responsible business practices from digital platforms.

FBCCI Director Syed Almas Kabir informed that the global OTT platform market size is $178 billion and will reach $275 billion by 2027.

“Therefore, to strengthen Bangladesh’s position in this market, regulation must facilitate local businesses,” he said.

Telecoms Minister Mustafa Jabbar said Facebook and YouTube operate under US-based community standards, many of which are unsuitable in Bangladesh.

The draft regulations will ensure that online content does not run counter to Bangladeshi norms and values, he said.

Md Mokbul Hossain, Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said that two different ministries had prepared different guidelines on the same matter regarding court guidelines.

FBCCI Chairman, Md Jashim Uddin urged policy makers not to hamper the growth of potential new sectors.

Navidul Huq, director of the Mohammadi Group, said Bangladesh was a unique country where two regulators were crafting regulations for one industry.

“There was (regulatory) convergence around the world. Even in India there is regulation. We are complicating things,” he said.

It will not be easy to do business if there are two regulators, he said.

He said local OTT platforms compete with global giants, so there should be regulation that supports the local industry.

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