Update (16 March): The I&B Ministry acknowledged some streaming services’ efforts to create a self-regulatory complaints committee, the Digital Content Complaints Committee, in a Lok Sabha response on 13 April. “Government called a meeting of OTT platforms and their association is in preparation of self-regulation,” the ministry said, in an apparent reference to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, which is spearheading the effort (but does not have the approval of all members). The ministry also said that streaming services are intermediaries under the IT Act.
The ministry also referred to a Supreme Court case demanding that online content on services like Netflix be regulated. MediaNama interviewed the petitioner’s lawyer in that case in September. The next hearing is tentatively set for April.
Earlier (12 March): The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in response to a Lok Sabha question by MP Feroze Varun Gandhi that it has no plans to regulate streaming services. “Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has not conducted any formal consultation with online video streaming service providers such as Netflix, Hotstar etc. regarding the content regulation,” the Ministry said. The response added that the IT Act and its intermediary guidelines governed the conduct for all “third party content”. (MEITY has not yet released the updated amendments to the intermediary guidelines.)
This is not surprising, because the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has taken the lead in online content regulation. In a meeting earlier this month, I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar gave streaming services 100 days to come up with a code of conduct and finalise the details of the Digital Content Complaints Committee. The I&B ministry had also held consultation with industry in multiple cities last year.
Few sign-ons to self-regulation committee
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.