NEW DELHI :
Amid looming fear of the government cracking a whip on the over-the-top (OTT) video streaming industry in India through some kind of a censor board, comes a good news for OTT firms. Unlike television broadcasting and feature films, the video streaming industry in India will continue to enjoy creative freedom and platforms will only have to come together to create a self-regulation model, said a top official at the ministry of information and broadcasting.
“We’ve been in consultation with players in Mumbai and Chennai lately and are working towards a system of self-regulation for the OTT industry," Amit Khare, secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting, said at the CII Big Picture Summit 2019 in New Delhi on Thursday.
Khare said the government’s recognition of the need for self-regulation, and not censorship or certification, stems from the fact that the OTT industry is entirely controlled by private players and requires creative freedom of a different kind.
Earlier this year, nine video streaming sites in India decided to adopt a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). However, soon after, a couple of shows ruffled some feathers in the corridors of power. These included Leila on Netflix that hints at the repercussions of right-wing Hindu fundamentalism and the kind of dystopian society it could create, and Gandii Baat on ALTBalaji that featured erotic stories from rural India. To be sure, both Netflix and ALTBalaji were among those, along with Hotstar, Voot, ZEE5, Arre, SonyLIV, Reliance Jio and Eros Now, that had agreed to self-regulation.
Self-regulation under the IAMAI classified content into three separate and distinct categories, including those meant for general or universal viewing; content that requires parental guidance and/or content that is solely meant for age-appropriate audiences (such age-appropriate audience may be further sub-categorized into different age groups). Platforms are also required to display a content descriptor or guidance message that indicate and inform the viewer about the nature of the content, particularly around age-inappropriate content for minors.
Also, the signatories to the code agreed to a grievance redressal mechanism whereby they would appoint or institute, as part of their operational systems, a dedicated person, team or department, to receive and address any consumer-related concerns and complaints in relation to the content they are showcasing.
Details of the self-regulation code proposed by the government are not known yet.
On Thursday, Khare re-emphasised that the media and entertainment industry in India was predominantly private, including films, television, and OTT offerings. The government’s recent initiatives to aid the sector include digitization of the film certification process, archival of old classics for the National Film Heritage Mission and a single-window clearance for ease of shooting. “We are moving towards a system where the government is not a parent, but a friend to the industry. We want to be seen as a facilitator to help the growth of the sector," Khare said.