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IAMAI to come out with ‘implementation code’ in face of I&B Ministry objections to OTT self-regulation code

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) will come out with yet another code, an “implementation code”, for streaming services like Netflix and Hotstar, after the government refused to support the streaming industry’s third attempt at a self-regulation code. This was revealed by two members of the IAMAI’s Digital Entertainment Committee (DEC), Tarun Katial (who chairs the DEC) and Gourav Rakshit, Chief Operating Officer of Viacom18 Digital, during the Fast Track Digital event, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), on November 25.

It’s open knowledge that the government has come back with some feedback on the code. It isn’t very different from where we are today. There are some minor or major implementation issues that they want us to tackle, which the industry in its implementation code is working towards. I’m very hopeful by the time I relinquish my role, we would be done with the implementation code, and all of us would have agreed to this implementation code, which flows from the self-regulation code,” Katial said at the event. Rakshit, who also spoke of the next code, called it an “implementation toolkit.”

While details of the implementation code haven’t been released, the participants said that the code would contain detailed information on what laws govern their conduct, among other things. While this implementation code is being positioned as a supplementary resource for streaming services, it’s unclear how it would satisfy the government’s central concerns — a lack of a list of prohibited content and the lack of what they believe to be sufficient independence in evaluating complaints from viewers — without amending the self-regulation code that has already been put out and announced.

We have reached out to the IAMAI for more clarity on what such a code would entail. It’s worth noting that Katial called the current code the “final code” in an interview earlier this year. At the FICCI event, Katial said that one important reason to get government approval for the self-regulation code was that, in numerous court cases that come up regarding Over-the-top (OTT) platforms, the government invariably asked for its opinion. “I think the government needs to be satisfied that the self-regulation code works, that they don’t need to regulate, and that they should be able to represent this to courts,” he said.

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MIB wants self-regulation

Even though the I&B Ministry has obtained administrative authority over films and TV shows streamed online, Katial said that this was not an indication that the government would swoop in to regulate.

We’re [incorrectly] presuming that by moving the adjudication [of streaming platforms] to the I&B Ministry, there is going to be regulation. There is nowhere, where the Ministry in its affidavits in any of its court cases has said that they plan to bring in any sort of regulation. In fact, all public statements of the Ministry have been about encouraging the industry for self-regulation. And in my own personal conversations as the co-chair for IAMAI, and as representing ZEE5, all the conversations with the Minister [Prakash Javadekar] as well as with the senior bureaucrats have been that they’ve been encouraging us to bring a self-regulatory code that can be standard and can help the entire industry find a common way forward. — Tarun Katial, head of the Digital Entertainment Committee at IAMAI

MX Player CEO Karan Bedi also pointed out that the I&B Ministry gaining administrative authority over streaming services was something that I&B Secretary Amit Khare had previously announced at FICCI Frames, where Bedi was also on the panel.

On the point that the self-regulation code doesn’t list out prohibited content for streaming platforms, Katial said, “We are very clear in our code and in our implementation code, we cover all applicable laws of the country, so that we are not violating anything that is enshrined in the constitution. That is fairly broad and called out, and in our implementation code, we’re hoping to list out those laws specifically. Even if we don’t, the code does very clearly cover that.”

Bedi added, “We have said that all applicable laws are covered in the code, but more than that, whether we say it or not, if you are a citizen of the country, you are governed by the laws of the country.”

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

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