Govt won’t interfere with content of OTT platforms, assures Prakash Javadekar

In a meeting with OTT platform representatives, the I&B Minister said that no member of the self-regulatory body will be appointed by the government

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Mar 5, 2021 8:08 AM  | 4 min read
Prakash Javadekar

Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar, on Thursday, held an interaction with representatives of various over the top (OTT) platforms including from ALTBalaji, Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Jio TV, ZEE5, Voot, Shemaroo, and MX Player.

While appreciating that the OTT platforms have welcomed the new rules, Javadekar also sought to dispel rumours by clarifying that no member in the self-regulating body will be appointed by the government. The minister wants to allay the fears of OTT platforms that the government will interfere with digital content.

According to a PIB release, the industry representatives welcomed the rules and thanked the minister for addressing most of their concerns. Finally, the minister added that the government is open to any clarification or queries from the industry.

Speaking on the power of the government under the rules, the minister informed that the government will create the Inter-Departmental Committee to look at complaints that remain unresolved at the self-regulatory level.

Informing the industry representatives about the provisions of the rules, the minister said it merely requires them to disclose information and that there is no requirement of registration of any kind with the ministry. He added that a form for this will be ready soon.

Furthermore, he said the rules focus on the self-classification of content instead of any form of censorship. Further, OTT platforms are expected to develop an effective grievance redressal mechanism.

The minister mentioned that the government has done several rounds of consultation with the OTT players in the past and stressed the need for self-regulation.

Javadekar stated that he had received representations from cinema and TV stakeholders to bring OTT platforms under the regulatory framework. Thus, it was decided that the government would come out with a progressive institutional mechanism for OTT players and develop a level playing field with the idea of self-regulation.

The government recently notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. Notified under section 87 of the Information Technology Act, the Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms, and digital media empower the MIB to implement Part-III of the Rules.

The government has suggested two key points for OTT platforms. One is the self-classification of content and the other is a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.

The OTT platforms, which are also called the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories - U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult). Platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”.

Further, the publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.

The ministry has also established a three-level grievance redressal mechanism under the rules with different levels of self-regulation.

The first tier is self-regulation by the publishers in which the publisher will have to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take a decision on every grievance it receives within 15 days.

The second tier is self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers. There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court, or independent eminent person and have not more than six members.

Such a body will have to register with the MIB. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

The third tier will see the formulation of an oversight mechanism by the MIB. The ministry shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.

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