If the Ministry of Information and Broadcast makes a regulation for the certification of online streaming content which requires it to view everything on the internet all the time, it will be “impossible for any government or organisation to do so, said Information and Broadcast Ministry’s Secretary, Amit Khare, on October 11, at the seminar on film certification and regulation of online content, held in Mumbai. His remarks come at a time after I&B minister Prakash Javadekar, had in September this year, said that the ministry would create a framework to certify online streaming content.

The two-day seminar was organised by MIB and the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT). Attendees at the seminar included prominent film makers, national award winning film critics, Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) members, and representatives of streaming platforms among others.

Khare did acknowledge the fact that streaming/over the top (OTT) platforms have given smaller firms and creators exposure. “OTT [over the top] as a technology has been very important. Many of the smaller films, creative people who could not have got exposure on TV or in film theatres have got exposure [due] to OTT,” Khare said.

However, making a case for regulation, he said that while “technology is neither good or bad, it is the type of rules that you lay” that defines how beneficial it will eventually be. “[T]he best example being the nuclear technology…even for nuclear technology, you have the agreements between countries,” he said.

At this moment though, it seems as if MIB is uncertain over the type of framework that needs to be deviced for this certification process. Khare said that the ministry doesn’t want to “thrust” anything on OTT platforms.

A ministry source told MediaNama that the most likely framework would be a self-regulatory code for OTT platforms, which is acknowledged by the government so as to give it legal sanctity.

No point in having an unimplementable regulation, Khare said

If and when there is regulation of online content, Khare said that it will have to be imposed both “technologically and also depending on the choice of the society”. He said that if 1 billion people decide to walk on the right side of the road, they can’t be forced to walk on the left side. He highlighted striking a balance between different stakeholders as being crucial to the implementability of a regulation.

“There are various stakeholders, as a society and as a government, we have to balance between the interests and conflicts of different people.” – Amit Khare

Regulation also gives certain safeguards: Khare

Acknowledging that regulation place certain obligations, Khare said that “they [regulations] also give you certain safeguards, so you can turn to the government that as per clause so and so, we are covered and therefore you cannot interfere”. Khare said that regulation does not necessarily mean that that there will be one strict regulator that will reprimand OTT platforms for violation of guidelines. The certification of online streaming content “could be a guideline, it could be self-regulation, and it can also be an Act,” he said.

There needs to be “appropriate regulation, appropriate to the situation,” he said. He explained this by giving the example of a traffic light:

“[I]n Lutyens Delhi, we have traffic circles, there are no signals, you just go around; there the traffic is not so heavy that you block it for the entire day. But the same traffic circle where it gets congested between 8 to 9 in the morning and again when the offices closed between 6 to 7, we place one or two policemen around those circles.” – Amit Khare

However, in areas like villages, where there are no traffic lights, there is always a speed breaker, Khare said.

Creators should understand their creative boundaries, said Khare

“A few weeks ago, we were flooded with this problem of the map of India not being shown correctly by some of the channels. But this is a very serious offense,” Khare said. “It cannot be said that this is my individual creativity that I will show parts of Maharashtra in Karnataka and parts of Karnataka in some other country. It cannot be left to your creativity,” he added ascertaining the fact that there will always be boundaries around creativity.

However, he did agree that any kind of regulation or self-regulation should not lead to the throttling of creative people.

Confidential consultation planned

This seminar was held to facilitate a dialogue between the government and stakeholders so that MIB can come up with an ideal regulation, Khare said. It was important to have a consultation for the regulation of online content to ensure that the ministry doesn’t come out with something unimplementable, he added. He urged attendees to send their suggestions to him personally so that MIB can create a framework accordingly. These submissions would be kept confidential, Khare said.