The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) has drafted a code of self-regulation for video streaming OTT platforms, reports The Economic Times. IAMAI officials confirmed the existence of the draft to MediaNama, and said that it would be released tomorrow, 17 January. MediaNama has not been able to access this draft.

According the ET report, the document is called ‘Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers.’ It disallows OTT platforms from streaming the following kind of content:

  • content banned by Indian courts;
  • content disrespecting the national emblem;
  • content which outrages religious sentiments;
  • content which promotes violence against the states or terrorism;
  • sexual acts by children

Within the code exists a grievance redressal mechanism, according to which: 

  • Within every company in the business of being an OTT platform, there must be a ‘Content Compliance Committee’ with a ‘Content Compliance Officer’
  •  The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Ministry of Electronics, Information and Technology (MeitY) can receive complaints from viewers and send them to companies.

Precedence on content regulation

There have been cases in Indian courts seeking to regulate or censor content in the online space, the latest being The Accidental Prime Minister and Sacred Games. The High Court refused to entertain the petition against The Accidental Prime Minister where the petitioner sought a ban on the trailer of the film from YouTube and Google, and a ban on the film. The petitioner, Pooja Mahajan, moved to SC seeking an urgent hearing in her plea which was refused.

In the Sacred Games controversy, petitioner Nikhil Bhalla had requested the Delhi HC to issue guidelines for regulating OTT media service providers and had petitioned for setting up of a grievance redressal mechanism. However, the Centre submitted against new regulations for OTT platforms and batted for freedom of expression. The ministry had instead put the liability on the intermediaries to disable the content that they deem unfit, under the IT Act, 2000.

Therefore, it would be interesting to see, whether the ministry ratifies or endorses the Code of self-regulation to be floated by IAMAI, or it chooses to stick to its previous stance.

Sneha adds: While we haven’t seen the contents of IAMAI’s draft, the points it raises about the content that should be self-regulated violates citizens’ and the artists’ (who create that content) freedom of expression in many ways. Content creators mostly have a target audience in mind, and as viewers, we need to understand that we (as any group that you identify with) may not always fit into all buckets, and that’s all right. Some content simply isn’t to our taste, that should not prohibit that content from existing. Before we rush to release a “policy” for self-regulation, it would be good to get all stakeholders’ opinions, especially since the Central government is not keen on regulating online content.