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I&B Ministry gives OTT industry 100 days to create adjudicatory authority

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting gave the streaming video industry 100 days to finalise a code of conduct and create an adjudicatory authority, Mumbai Mirror reports. In the 45-minute meeting, Minister Prakash Javadekar invoked China, a jurisdiction with government-led censorship of online content. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, and other major streaming services were reported to be at the Monday meeting.

The minister also asked for clearer age ratings standards. He cited his own family’s use of Amazon’s Fire TV, which shows content from multiple providers in one interface. The government says it won’t censor any content itself, the government insists on a system to deal with complaints. This raises the question of what will happen to those who don’t sign on to a self-regulatory system.

Only four signatories to content council

The IAMAI has set up a Digital Content Complaints Council, partly at the I&B Ministry’s urging. AP Shah, a retired Delhi High Court chief justice, will head the council. The governing council will have nine members, of which two will represent streaming services. Decisions will be taken by a simple majority of votes. Complaints can be filed ‘in the interest of the consumers’, which will have to be ruled on within a month.

Read: Exclusive: IAMAI’s new code for online content streaming sets up a self-regulatory body, incorporates penalties

Only four companies have signed on to the council: Hotstar, Jio, Voot, and SonyLIV. The council’s code purports to target content that harms national sovereignty; that promotes violence against children; promotes terrorism; or content banned by court order. However, similarly open-ended codes have led to alarming levels of cautious behaviour from the TV industry.

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Read: In 8 scenes, how a Sacred Games episode would change because of the TV content code

Even in the streaming industry, Hotstar, which is a DCCC signatory, has chosen to not upload an episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight that focuses on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which does not violate any of the points of the code. Also, only two members are from streaming services, which makes it impossible for them to veto complaints as an industry, which raises the question of whether it’s a self-regulatory body in the first place.

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