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Upset we’re not being consulted, OTT platform body says about govt ‘plan’ to frame guidelines

The government is in the process of framing guidelines for regulating OTT platforms, but has not held any consultation with stakeholders yet.

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New Delhi: The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has appealed to the central government to initiate a public dialogue by inviting comments if it intends to notify any draft guidelines to regulate OTT (over-the-top) platforms.

In a statement Wednesday, the industry body said it was “dismayed” over the government’s plans to frame such guidelines, as reported in the media, without consulting the association or any other stakeholder.

ThePrint had reported earlier this month that the government is in the process of framing a code to regulate OTT (over-the-top) platforms, but has not held any consultation with the stakeholders yet over the proposed move.

There has been no official word so far — either from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting or the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeiTY) — on what the code would comprise. However, a senior government official told ThePrint the guidelines are being refined and would be announced “very soon”.

With MeiTY Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar scheduled to address a press conference Thursday, an announcement regarding the new code could be made there.

After coming up with a universal self-regulation code last year, the IAMAI brought out an implementation toolkit earlier this month to help the streaming platforms put into practice the Universal Self-Regulation Code signed by 17 OTT players. The toolkit also addressed certain issues flagged by the government, such as lack of independent third-party monitoring and clarity on what comprises prohibited content.

“The industry has been working collectively to formalise transparent and stringent guidelines for Self-regulation, but has been completely perturbed by the lack of  any consultative process administered with the stakeholders that usually proceeds such guidelines or regulations,” the IAMAI said in the statement Wednesday.


Also read:For OTT platforms in India, Tandav blurs the line between self-regulation and censorship


The proposed content code for OTTs

ThePrint had reported that the new content code drafted by the government could take a cue from the programme code prescribed under the Cable TV Network Rules, 1994 and an “inter-ministerial committee (IMC) kind of body” — currently in place to decide on specific violations by television channels — to take a call over specific complaints on OTT content.

The MeiTY will also be involved to ensure compliance with the guidelines by the platforms since OTT content is streamed over the internet and this is likely to involve framing of certain rules, sources had told ThePrint.

According to a report in Hindustan Times, there could be be two more tiers in the content code being drafted by the government before any grievance is escalated to the IMC — the first being grievance redressal by the company itself, and the other involving a regulatory body headed by a retired judge of a high court or the Supreme Court.

The report also said content streamed on the platforms must have U (universal) or A (adult) certification and the guidelines will cover intermediaries like Facebook.

Sources in the government had told ThePrint earlier that the government is contemplating bringing all television channels, OTT platforms and digital media under a separate legislative framework in future.

In its statement, the IAMAI expressed “surprise” that the government did not consult the stakeholders while drafting any such guidelines.

“Unfortunately, as things stand, as a responsible industry body and an ardent supporter of all Government policies and regulations, IAMAI is surprised to be not consulted on the draft guidelines for OCCPs that are being quoted in the media,” the association said.

“Also, apart from the 17 OCC platforms that are signatories to IAMAI’s Universal Self-Regulation Code, there are producers, actors and other stakeholders who too should have been consulted before the guidelines are published,” the statement said.

“We firmly believe that regulations arrived at through wide stakeholder consultations are much more effective and more easily implementable.”

An industry source associated with a streaming platform said they are looking forward to the discussions that the ministry would undertake. “We are looking forward to engaging with the ministry and come up with a code that is acceptable to the consumers, the streaming platforms and the government,” the source said.


Also read: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar will self-regulate content through this ‘toolkit’


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