For a very long time we have been hearing the government’s intention to regulate the over the top (OTT) and other services providing internet content in Nepal. Well, the wait is over as the government has recently come up with the amendment in the National Broadcasting Regulation 1995 (2052).
The 11th amendment of the regulation has included OTT, video on demand (VOD), and internet television under 'Other Means of Communications'. With the said inclusion, the regulation now requires OTT and internet television to register to provide its service in Nepal. The term OTT has been defined as the service of displaying the programs as per the demand of the consumer through the internet without using the means of direct to home (DTH) cable or satellite and such term shall also include the media streaming services through other platforms by the means of internet. Further, internet television (Internet TV) has included the regular act of transmission of the self-produced audio-visual programs through the internet.
This definition will require popular streaming service providers like YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. to obtain approval from the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. The regulation has further provisioned for the mandatory requirement of the cache server within Nepal if the OTT service provider intends to make any member or customer in Nepal or acquire any kind of fees from Nepal. It has also required the storage of user information within the server of Nepal. Further, the OTT service providers should keep a record of the programs transmitted by them, for at least 60 days and the same shall also be made accessible to the ministry and other governmental authorities in the process of investigations.
The content to be displayed through OTT must also be subject to categorization as per age. The “U” rating must be granted for such content which is appropriate to all the age groups whereas “A” rating is provided to the content for the age group above 18 years. “R” rating, similarly, provided to the content appropriate to the age group of 10-18 years.
The regulation also provisions that the ministry can take control of such equipment or make necessary arrangements to disallow the operation of such equipment which has been used for transmission or communication of the program in an unauthorized manner without obtaining necessary license or approval as required by the regulation.
As the regulation has mandatorily required approval of the ministry in order to distribute the content through the internet in Nepal, it is worth observing to see whether the foreign companies providing such services to the users based in Nepal comply. Due to the limited market of users in Nepal, it is less likely the service providers would be willing to register in Nepal as it may also trigger other compliance requirement as per the laws of Nepal. Further, it would be important to see what the government’s next step would be as the regulation is silent on the time period to comply with such requirements and what would it do to foreign OTT service providers if they fail to comply with the licensing requirement of the regulation.