You’re reading it here first: The Internet and Mobile Association of India is releasing a new content code to govern content on online streaming platforms that will lead to the setting up of an industry self-regulatory body called the Digital Content Complaints Council (DCCC). The DCCC will field complaints related to online content. Multiple industry sources have confirmed this development to MediaNama, and shared a copy of the new draft code with us. Download it here.

The IAMAI has not responded to several requests for comment from MediaNama. According to multiple sources, the code is expected to be announced tomorrow at the IAMAI’s annual event, the India Digital Summit, though the draft we have doesn’t specifically mention a date. This may not be the final version.

This is the second version of the code for online content platforms from the IAMAI, and according to industry sources MediaNama spoke to, not all signatories to the previous code have signed on: Netflix and Arre. Netflix declined to comment when contacted by MediaNama. The previous code had been signed by Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Arre, SonyLIV, ALT Balaji, Jio and Eros Now. Key streaming services like Amazon Prime, TVF Play, Yupp TV, Hungama Play had not signed the previous version, nor had YouTube (which has YouTube Red) and Facebook (which has Facebook Watch). From what we’re told, many content providers who are IAMAI members were not informed about this new code until late last week, less than a week before the planned announcement. This new code supersedes the previous version.

With this code, the IAMAI is looking, with the DCCC, to create a position for itself that is similar to the Broadcast Content Complaints Council, which is an independent self-regulatory body for non-news general entertainment channels set up by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF). The Broadcast Content Code is fairly draconian, as we had illustrated here, by applying it to an episode of Sacred Games.

The code, much like its previous version, tries to distinguish the curated content providers’ industry from User Generated Content sites, even though the IT Act itself doesn’t envision any such distinction, and treats all creators/curators of content as equal.

Differences between the codes

1. Receive complaints from the government: The new code explicitly says that the content providers who sign this code will agree to receive complaints forwarded by any government entity, including “the National Consumer Helpline of India, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Ministry of Communications”, either directly or through the Digital Content Complaint Council. In the previous version, two government departments — the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and MEITY could forward complaints to the grievance redressal departments of the platforms.

2. Investment in ‘safety features’: The signatories to this code will have to “invest extensively” in safety features such as those relating to content descriptors, age classification/maturity rating filtering and access/parental controls, to help consumers understand the kind of content they’re viewing.

3. Changes in prohibited content types:

  1. Removed: the text “Content which deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community” has been removed.
  2. Modified:the new code broadens the ambit of restrictions by including the text “Content which promotes and encourages disrespect to the sovereignty and integrity of India”, which seems to have replaced the fairly limited prohibition of “Content which deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag”.
    1. the text “Content which promotes and encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against the State (of India) or its institutions” has replaced the previous text, which stated “Content which deliberately and maliciously promotes or encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against the State (of India) or its institutions”.

4. Incorporation of parental access controls: While it hasn’t been made mandatory, the new code says that signatories shall institute tools to ensure parental/access controls or adopt measures such as PIN/Password to access/restrict access to content meant for mature audiences/adult viewing.

5. Complaints redressal mechanisms:

  1. Grievance redressal department: In the previous version of the code, all signatories would have had to appoint a person or institute a department to ensure compliance with the code, and address grievances of the viewers. In this version, the content companies will have to create a department called the Digital Content Complaint Forum which will oversee compliance with the code, provide guidance to the platform on classification of content and descriptors, and receive complaints.
  2. Complaint filing: In the previous version of the code, the consumer would have had to file a complaint with the relevant video streaming platform. In the new version, the consumer may file a complaint directly with the platform or with an industry body created under the IAMAI, called the Digital Content Complaints Council.
  3. Complaint redressal: In the previous version of the code, the complaint would have had to be acknowledged within 3 working days of the receipt of the complaint, and then respond to it within 10 to 30 working days, informing the complainant about the action taken if there was a violation. In the new version, in case of the Digital Content Complaint Forum of a particular streaming service, they’ll need to acknowledge the complaint within 3 days and respond to it within 10 working days. If more time is required, then they’ll have to inform the complainant, but not take more than 30 working days to respond. If there’s a violation, they’ll need to inform the complainant about the action taken.The IAMAI has also added a second tier in the new code, where the Online Curated Content Providers Governing Council, which will have a representative each from the signatories, will set up a secretariat to govern the operations of a new body, called the The Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC).
    1. Members of the DCCC: The Governing Council will also nominate members of the DCCC. The DCCC will have 9 members, with a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court as its Chairperson. The others will include three members from the media and entertainment industry, with experience in writing/curating/producing/directing content; 3 members from any national level Statutory Commissions such as National Commission for Women (NCW), or National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), or National Commission for Schedule Caste, or from National level Statutory Commissions such as, National Commission for Schedule Tribes, or National Commission for Minorities, or National Commission for Backward Classes, or National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); 2 members from content platforms.
    2. Complaints to the DCCC: It can take up complaints not resolved at the Tier-1 (DCCF) level, or take up complaints suo moto, “in the interests of consumers”. It can also accept complaints from the government. Complaints pertaining to those who haven’t signed the code will be returned to the complainant, with a request to contact the content provider.
    3. Jurisdiction of the DCCC: the DCCC will look into complaints related to Content, age classification, descriptors and/or parental access controls.
    4. Meetings and decisions: The decisions of the DCCC will be by a simple majority, and they will meet twice a month at the IAMAI office.
    5. Penalties: The DCCC may ask the content provider, post adjudication of a complaint, to reclassify ratings of relevant content; and/or include a warning card or disclaimer; and/or edit synopsis of relevant content; and/or impose a financial penalty. The penalty shall be a maximum of Rs 3 lakh, and could be graded depending on the violation. The previous version of the code did not specify penalties or punishment.