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Government sidesteps streaming industry’s self-regulation code in parliament

Streaming services like Hotstar, Netflix, Prime Video and ZEE5 have been working with the government for a long time to come up with a self-regulation code. But the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, which gave the industry a 100 day deadline to come up with this code, doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge it. In a parliamentary response dated September 14, the government sidestepped a question on regulating streaming services by saying that content over the internet is governed by the Information Technology Act, 2000.

This response is interesting, as it doesn’t at all cover the ministry’s own efforts over the past few months, and also seems to step away from its stated stand on the subject that it has spoken about in parliament before. Over 2019, the I&B Ministry held two invite-only seminar-cum-consultation events where the ministry said that self-regulation has to happen among streaming services. In March this year, the ministry said that it had called a meeting of OTT streaming platforms to come up with a self-regulation code. I&B secretary Amit Khare has also said that a proposal is in the works to transfer jurisdiction of online content from the IT Ministry to his.

The streaming industry, under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), eventually complied, releasing a “Universal Self-Regulation Code” on September 4.

But the I&B Ministry’s silence on the code, even after being pointedly asked about regulating streaming services in Parliament, seems to indicate that they don’t yet support it. Sony Liv’s statement upon their signing the code earlier this week lends weight to this too — its representative said in a press release that the streaming industry “hopes” to win the government’s support for the self-regulation steps it is taking. We have reached out to the I&B Ministry for comment.

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