States ultimatum in self-policing content on OTT platforms.

Sajid Ali -

States ultimatum in self-policing content on OTT platforms.

Censorship has co-existed since the inception of the entertainment industry. There have always been debates, discussions, arguments and spats over the creative difference between the Government body and the filmmakers. The latest victim of it is OTT platforms who are under the scrutiny for the content they carry on their respective platforms. The recent examples are Paatal Lok on Amazon Prime and Zee 5 Originals Godman.
 
The 100-day deadline given by the government to roll out a self-regulation code is drawing close to this month. This has all the leading OTT players under immense pressure. Leading platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar and Zee 5 have to come up with a solution. But the streaming platforms are unable to come to a uniform decision on how to self-regulate their content.
 
In a recent meeting, last month between the officials of the Information & Broadcasting Ministry and the heads of OTT platforms, the representative of the government stated that they’re looking for arbitration in addressing the consumer complaints and concerns. In which they implied the two-tier system to address the complaints which have been endorsed currently by 5 platforms, Disney+ Hotstar, Sony Liv, Voot, Jio and Eros. The rest of the platforms have been eluding this mechanism fearing it may curb their freedom of artistic expression and the cutting edge content they create.
 
Apparently more companies were open to signing the first draft of the regulatory code released back in January 2019 under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which defined Video on Demand (VOD) platforms to follow the laws of the land that restricts child pornography, acts of terrorism and disrespect to national symbols, among other things. Platforms were asked to categorize shows suiting different age groups and carry content index and dedicate teams to address the content-related complaints from the consumers.
 
OTT sector revised its self-regulation code based on feedback from the government. Which lead to set up an external body to resolve content-related issues raised by the consumers. The revised code proposed to create a Digital Content Complaints Council to be chaired by a retired Judge, which will comply with the mechanism followed by the broadcasting sector.
 
Whereas if we see the broadcasting sector is based on “push” content where the consumer doesn’t have a choice which might require a different set of rules, while OTT platforms are based on “pull” content where the consumer pulls the content he/she wants to view. OTT claims that they have a more individualistic approach to choose content for viewing on their smart devices in comparison to TV. Content provided on OTT comes with synopsis, trailers/promos, guidance on sex and nudity, which gives a clear insight of the content streaming on the platform, which in turn gives the consumer to use precautions such as child lock, which helps them deal with complaints internally.
 
After the meeting from last month with I & B ministry officials, OTT platforms have revisited IAMAI and the matter is now pending with digital entertainment committee. Also, there’s a buzz that OTT platforms Hungama and Shemaroo are leaning towards adhering to the revised self-regulation codes.
 
OTT is covered by IT and digital laws. If the OTT sector does not come up with its own code, then the government may have to consider a legal option. 
 
Do you think OTT content should be regulated beyond the measures already in place by the streaming platforms? Please let us know in the comments below.
 


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