OTTs pledge self-regulation amid scrutiny

The OTT platforms have also said that self-regulatory bodies will be adequately trained and strengthened. (Bloomberg)
The OTT platforms have also said that self-regulatory bodies will be adequately trained and strengthened. (Bloomberg)

Summary

  • OTT platforms have outlined their long-term objectives in a letter to the government

Video-streaming platforms have reached out to the government reiterating their commitment to both responsible content creation and self-regulation amid increasing scrutiny by authorities, said industry insiders.

In a letter, OTT (over-the-top) platforms have outlined their long-term objectives, roles and responsibilities, such as adhering to the Code of Ethics, strengthening self-regulatory bodies as well as maintaining age-based classifications for shows and movies aired on the platforms.

The Internet and Mobile Association of India and the Indian Digital Media Industry Foundation wrote to the government on behalf of the platforms conveying the industry’s stand.

Industry experts said while government authorities often summon company executives to address key issues, recently, shows like Kohrra and Rana Naidu ruffled some feathers.

There’s also concern about the potential impact of a consultation paper proposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for regulating OTT platforms, including content providers. Additionally, certain revisions in the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill have necessitated a review of age classifications if a film is to be screened on platforms following its theatrical release.

“Essentially, with a surge in OTT consumption post-covid, there has been a rise in complaints against content, and the idea has been to find a balance between creative expression and what may be seen as sensitive. Discussions with the government happen, though there is some concern of late on the Trai consultation paper for the technology apps that may also take a look at content platforms," the legal head of a streaming service said on condition of anonymity.

Furthermore, platforms are still not clear whether amendments to the cinematograph Bill require a re-evaluation of age classification and whether there is a necessity for censor board approval if a film is to be shown on a secondary platform.

“Overall, all platforms are being cautious post the Tandav incident and the intention is to not hurt any sentiments," the legal head added.

OTTs have sworn to ensure that movies and shows do not threaten security of the state, public order, beliefs and views of racial and religious groups, and display age-based classification prominently. They have also said that self-regulatory bodies will be adequately trained and strengthened.

Subhash Bhutoria, founder and managing partner, Law SB, said the platforms have reiterated all that is mentioned in the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. “The only issue is monitoring the voluminous content streamed on the platforms. Self-regulatory bodies have been formed, but a lot of time and effort is required, as there are over 57 OTTs operational in India. No organization has that kind of bandwidth," Bhutoria added.

Another executive at an OTT platform said that while services vetoed it completely, there was also a proposal to create a fourth level of self-regulatory mechanism where scripts could be whetted for problematic themes before shoots start. “A lot of big players have that kind of mechanism, but it’s hugely expensive and could be a challenge for smaller entities. Another point of discussion was whether there could be such a body (for going through scripts) at an industry level, but no service would want to share scripts and ideas outside the organization," the person said. The self-regulatory bodies are only two years old and still need time to step up and address all complaints, the person agreed. However, several services could do a better job of age gating and access controls, he said.

“We’re all aware that extreme nudity or violence cannot be encouraged, but the whole idea of an OTT is to not be another form of a GEC (general entertainment channel)," Akshay Bardapurkar, founder of OTT platform Planet Marathi, said.

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