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Road map soon for OTT players like Netflix, Zee 5 to help make content code ‘clearer’

New guidelines from industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India will bring 'greater transparency' to self-regulatory code for streaming platforms, address govt concerns.

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New Delhi: Industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) — which has as members video-streaming platforms such as Netflix, MX Player and Zee 5, among others — will shortly come out with a set of implementation guidelines to bring in “greater transparency” to the self-regulatory code that was signed by 15 Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs) in September last year, ThePrint has learnt.  

While its exact timeline is yet to be finalised, industry sources said it is likely to be rolled out by the end of the month. 

The guidelines, which are part of the “implementation document”, has also addressed the concerns raised by the government over the final version of the self-regulatory code.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry, last year, had raised multiple issues with the self-regulatory code when it was rolled out.

This included a lack of adequate external oversight in the redressal of grievances regarding the content they host, that the code does not explicitly state what comprises prohibited content, and the absence of a well-defined code of ethics.

Subsequently, the ministry, in November, brought all OCCPs and digital news platforms under its ambit. The ministry will be holding consultations with the industry stakeholders to finalise a roadmap.

“Discussions are still on, but platforms have reached a consensus on this matter. The self-regulatory code continues to be valid, but the implementation document aims to bring greater transparency to the code for the benefit of both the existing and future signatories to the code,” said a source from one of the video-streaming platforms.   

ThePrint reached Netflix, MX Player and Zee5 via email for a comment. While both Netflix and Zee5 declined to comment on the matter, there was no response from MX Player till the publishing of this report.

Also read: Consensus eludes Netflix, Amazon & others on tweak in self-regulation code sought by govt

How the new guidelines will address govt concerns 

Sources across platforms told ThePrint that the list of applicable laws has been attached to the implementation document to identify prohibited content. 

The self-regulatory code had run into troubles with the government as it insisted to explicitly list out what is restricted or prohibited content, even as the platforms said that all content to be streamed would abide by the laws and there wasn’t a need to explicitly list out prohibited content. 

“A list of the content-related laws of the land will be a ready reference for the platforms on what to follow and what not in terms of content,” a source from another video-streaming platform said.

Sources also said the implementation guidelines will state that the appellate tier of a signatory’s grievance redressal section would have an equal representation of internal (company representatives) and external (independent) members. 

In case of a dispute or a tie in a particular decision, the implementation guidelines will detail that one external member will have the additional powers of casting a vote.  

“This will provide greater transparency on the decisions,” the source said.

The industry’s self-regulation code had called for the grievance redressal mechanism to have the appellate tier comprising at least three members, of which at least one would be an “independent” member empanelled by the firm

However, the ministry in a letter to the IAMAI, had noted that having one independent member in the proposed grievance redressal mechanism was inadequate representation.

Failure to implement rules can be reported to IAMAI

The new guidelines will also mandate a secretariat at the IAMAI to monitor their implementation by the signatories. 

“Any failure on the implementation of the code by a player can be reported by the ministry to IAMAI,” the first source quoted above said.

The OCCPs had long been holding consultations with the I&B Ministry, while the self-regulatory code was undergoing repeated amendments.

There are nearly 40 OTT platforms, of which 15 had signed the self-regulatory code. 

Last month, joint secretary in the I&B Ministry Vikram Sahay had stressed that there are universal concerns over content streamed on OTT platforms and it has to be seen that it protects certain sensibilities, especially of children, and that there has to be a system of discipline over content streamed by the platforms. 

Also read: Why OTT and cloud services in India should not be subjected to licensing regimes


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