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A complete guide to streaming services content regulation in India

As the streaming video industry and the government hold discussions on regulation streaming services like Netflix and Hotstar in India, here’s a complete guide to OTT regulation in India.

The Universal Self-Regulation Code

  • 15 Indian streaming platforms, including Netflix, Hotstar, Jio, Amazon agree on self-regulation code [read]
    • Summary of the Universal Self-Regulation Code for Online Curated Content Platforms [read]
  • Sony LIV signs IAMAI’s streaming self-regulation code, “hopes” to get government support [read]
  • Interview: IAMAI is in “constant deliberation” with MIB and MEITY over self-regulation of streaming services [read]
  • I&B Ministry refuses to support streaming services’ self-regulation code [read]
    • RTI: I&B Ministry advised IAMAI to look at BCCC structure for guidance on content regulation [read]
    • IAMAI to come out with ‘implementation code’ in face of I&B Ministry objections to OTT self-regulation code [read]
    • Streaming platforms to on-board legal luminaries to bolster self-regulation code: IAMAI [read]

The Digital Content Complaints Committee

  • IAMAI’s new code for online content streaming sets up a self-regulatory body, incorporates penalties [read]
    • Self Regulation for Online Curated Content Providers, IAMAI [read pdf]
  • Streaming players ask IAMAI to recall streaming content code, question legitimacy; IAMAI responds [read]
  • Lack of consensus and hard questions at IAMAI’s meeting on its DCCC content regulation code [read]
  • IAMAI to seek a consensus position on Content Regulation from its Digital Entertainment committee, following a Governing Council meeting [read]
  • IAMAI proposed ombudsman model to government for OTT streaming regulation: Arré CEO Ajay Chacko [read]
  • IFF writes to Justice AP Shah raising concerns about new IAMAI Code [read]
  • Earlier code: Giving the hecklers the veto: On the self regulatory code that Netflix, STAR, Jio and others have signed [read]
    • Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers, IAMAI [read]
  • ASEAN-based streaming services announce self-regulatory content code [read]

Discussions on OTT streaming regulation

  • Notes from MediaNama’s Roundtable on Online Content Regulation, Delhi [paid, read]
  • Why platforms self-regulate, and challenges that come with it: MediaNama’s discussion on Online Content Regulation [read]
  • Regulating online content for children, and how it would affect businesses [read]
  • Will self-regulation for content platforms even work? [read]
  • Standardisation, jurisdiction, private viewing [read]
  • How do we regulate online content to protect children? [read]
  • Regulation is already strangulating artistic freedom of creators: Gursimran Khamba [read]
  • How should online content be regulated? Should it be pre-censored or certified? Notes from the CCG-NLUD discussion [read]
  • #NAMAPolicy Delhi: Regulation of Online Entertainment Content [read]

What the government is thinking on OTT regulation

  • I&B Ministry gets administrative authority over streaming services and digital news platforms [read]
    • MP Babul Supriyo on OTT streaming regulation: no ‘unlimited freedom’ anymore [read]
    • I&B Minister Javadekar says OTT streaming industry has ‘no self-regulation’ despite code [read]
  • Offended by Netflix show, Madhya Pradesh home minister orders probe [read]
  • I&B Ministry gives OTT industry 100 days to create adjudicatory authority [read]
  • Impossible for us to view everything on the Internet all the time: I&B Secy Amit Khare; Confidential consultation on content regulation [read]
  • I&B Ministry proposes to take over content jurisdiction from MEITY [read]
  • Censor board inserts itself into online content regulation debate [read]
  • OTT content has to be regulated: BJP spokesperson Hitesh Jain at MIB seminar on regulation of online content [read]
  • I&B Ministry, MEITY say streaming services are intermediaries [read]
  • Piyush Goyal: OTT platforms’ content cannot be allowed to resonate indiscriminately in India [read]
  • Citing ALT Balaji show, Defence Ministry asks govt to require NOC for army-related content: Report [read]
  • Sacred Games: Centre bats for freedom of expression in Netflix case [read]
  • 2018: I&B Ministry disbands online content regulation committee; MeitY to step in [read]
  • 2016: We are not considering censorship of Hotstar and Netflix: I&B Ministry [read]

Court cases on content regulation

  • Delhi HC dismisses petition seeking licensing and regulation of OTT platforms [read]
  • Karnataka HC dismisses PIL to regulate Netflix, Amazon content [read]
  • Delhi High Court refuses to block Netflix show that calls lawyers ‘thieves’ [read]
    • Analysis of case by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression [read]
  • Why Justice for Rights went to court, asking for online content to be regulated [read]
  • Paatal Lok: Punjab & Haryana High Court issues notice on suit to censor web series [read]
  • PIL seeks regulation of web streaming services, Bombay High Court issues notice to central government [read]
    • Bombay HC stayed this proceeding because of the Supreme Court considering the same issue [read order]
  • Online app content: Madhya Pradesh court tells CBFC, Centre to file reply in 8 weeks [read]
    • Government lawyer tells MP HC that a case on the same subject is pending at Supreme Court [read]
    • In an identical case in the same court, judge defers hearing on the case due to SC considering the same issue [read]
  • Calcutta HC leaves it up to government to censor Paatal Lok [read]
  • Lawyer files PIL in Madras HC seeking pre-censorship of social media, OTT platforms [read]
  • Delhi High Court dismisses petition to regulate OTT content that may prejudice pending trials/investigations [read]
  • Allahabad High Court dismisses PILs against Amazon, ALT Balaji shows [read]
  • Supreme Court issues notice in case to regulate streaming platforms like Netflix [read]

Miscellaneous reading

  • Justice Prathiba M Singh calls for adjudicatory mechanism for streaming services, broadcasters [read]
  • No, there is no need for ‘consensus around self-regulation’ for streaming services [read]
  • Streaming platforms and self-censorship: An Indian perspective [read]
  • In 8 scenes, how a Sacred Games episode would change because of the TV content code [read]
  • Indecent representation of women: law to include digital media [read]
  • Right wing groups trend pro-censorship hashtag on Twitter [read]
  • TV broadcasters want the regulatory flexibility streaming services have [read]
  • Online content regulation: how is it done in other parts of the world? [read]
  • Leave Netflix alone: Regulation and certification of online content [read]
  • 2017: Streaming services censor themselves in India, even though they don’t need to [read]

Self-censorship on OTT platforms

  • 2020
    • In a virtually unprecedented move, Netflix put out a censored version of the film Mission Impossible: Fallout, after delaying its release without an explanation for weeks. It also removed an Indian map with boundaries disputed by the government from the Netflix Original series Street Food: Asia [read]
    • Netflix also put out a censored version of the show Vikings in India, prioritising the inclusion of a Hindi dub for the show over streaming the show as intended. [read]
    • Amazon Prime Video censored Borat Subsequent Moviefilm in India, blurring a world map to obscure the country’s boundaries with Pakistan and China. Amazon also added a disclaimer to the beginning of the film, something it hasn’t appear to have done for the film in other markets.
    • ZEE5 suspended the release of Tamil web series Godman after an online outrage cycle that included a senior retired bureaucrat and a Rajya Sabha MP, who reached out personally to Zee’s Subhash Chandra to call off the show’s release. [read]
    • ALT Balaji and ZEE5 censored an episode of XXX: Uncensored after people objected to its depiction of a military officer’s wife making her lover put on his uniform in a sex scene. [read]
    • Hotstar blocked an episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver about Narendra Modi and the rise of Hindu extremism in India.
      • While the company did not censor the show as much after Oliver called them out on it, it zoomed in on Oliver’s face in a shot in a subsequent episode about the World Health Organization to avoid showing a map of India with boundaries disputed by the government. [read]
    • ZEE5 edited a seeming sketch of an independence activist out of a TV show after the sketch’s appearance on a wanted board in the background of a shot caused outrage online. [read]
    • I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar intervened to censor a ZEE5/ALT Balaji show  [read]
    • In its fifth instance of censorship in 2020, ZEE5 pulled and later reinstated the Pakistani show Churails from its platform in its country of origin. [read]
    • Hotstar reportedly censored mentions of beef and ham in the cartoon DuckTales. [read]
  • 2019
    • In an act of self-censorship, Amazon Prime Video deletes episode of CBS show Madam Secretary which dealt with Hindu nationalism and Kashmir. Voot Select, which also streams the show in India, did not take the episode down. [read]
    • Hotstar took down a Koffee with Karan episode featuring Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul after criticism over comments made by one of the cricketers in the show. [read]
    • Netflix warned Hasan Minhaj to not use a version of the Kashmir map that the Indian government disputes in his show Patriot Act. [watch]
    • Netflix reportedly avoided purchasing the film Sexy Durga for political reasons. [read]
    • Apple TV+ released in India with certain titles censored, with arbitrary decisions around violence and swearing that were inconsistently applied. [read]
  • 2018
    • Amazon Prime Video censored The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel in India to blur genitalia and cigarette packs. [read]
  • 2017
    • Netflix released a heavily censored version of Angry Indian Goddesses censored in India, specifically requesting a version of the film that was approved by the Central Board of Film Certification. [read]
      • This censorship was reversed later.
    • Amazon Prime Video censored American Gods in India, but put out an ‘International Release’ version, something it has not done for any other show subsequently. [read]
  • 2016
    • Amazon Prime Video launched in India with heavy censorship, which included both its own originals and licensed films it had acquired that were available uncensored on streaming services like Netflix. [read]

We will continue to update this piece. If you believe something should be included here, email me at aroon@medianama.com.

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