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Home >Industry >Media >Netflix, Amazon, ZEE5, others sign up for self-regulation code

NEW DELHI: After several delays, close to 15 video streaming platforms operating in the country have come together under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) to sign a code of self-regulation.

Echoing the government’s call for self-regulation and not censorship or intervention, the OTT (over-the-top) services have formulated a framework for age classification, appropriate content description and access control. Most importantly, the code says there will be a grievance redressal mechanism through either a consumer complaints department or advisory panel of which persons specialising in fields such as, gender equality, child rights, etc can also act as independent members.

Earlier, many OTT operators could not agree to the second layer of external redressal system with a retired judge at the helm which now seems to have been modified and replaced by a three-member advisory panel with one independent member not engaged with the platform.

Platforms currently on board include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, ALTBalaji, ZEE5, Arre, Discovery+, Eros Now, Flickstree, Hoichoi, Hungama, MX Player, Shemaroo, VOOT and Jio Cinema while IAMAI hopes more of the 30 streaming firms in India will soon come into the fold.

The code, rolled out Friday evening and likely to be implemented over the next 60 days, is applicable to players who make curated content available and not to those working with user-generated content.

"This is a fairly big step towards meaningful involvement of all platforms. The idea is to maintain a balance between telling great stories and being sensitive of user issues and cultural boundaries," said Tarun Katial, chair, Digital Entertainment Committee, IAMAI. Katial added that while a similar code had been brought out early last year, the current framework includes more signatories and reflects higher consensus within the industry.

Under the framework of age classification, content providers will devise age ratings for curated content, including programme suitable for all ages, that “parents may allow their children to watch and includes little or no realistic violence, sex or nudity, only mild language, no substance use and any threat or anti-social behaviour is expressly disapproved or resolved quickly."

Other age classifications are - 7 years and above, 13 plus, 16 plus, and then programmes meant for 18 plus or adults only.

The signatories to the code have agreed to display, wherever necessary, a content descriptor or a guidance message specific to each programme that informs the viewer about the nature of the content and advises on viewer discretion, if applicable. The same will be displayed at the title page of the respective content and/or at the beginning of any programme which will enable the viewer to make an informed decision prior to viewing it.

Signatories to the code may institute relevant technological tools and measures for access control such as, PIN or password to restrict or control access to content.

Content providers will also create a framework for grievance redressal. Each platform shall set up a consumer complaints department (CCD) which would include a dedicated person or team as the first point of contact in case a consumer wants to complain against violation of the code, besides looking into cases that are forwarded by government bodies or agencies.

Each streaming service shall also set up an internal committee to take up issues in case the provider’s grievance redressal system does not comprise CCD, or consumers are dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaints provided by CCD, or where CCD fails to respond to consumer complaints within prescribed timelines.

Platforms will also be required to set up an panel to advise on decisions and recommendations of the internal committee where complainant requests escalation. At least one panel members has to be independent, not engaged for gains in any manner with the platform, including persons specialising in fields such as, gender equality, child rights, etc.

OTT platforms must acknowledge the receipt of the consumer complaint within 48 hours and appropriately reply to the user within 15 working days from the date of receipt of the complaint or indicate timelines within which they anticipate to be able to respond to same. The contact details to reach out to any of these committees shall be made publicly available on the platform’s website or app.

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