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One week before unofficial deadline, most OTT streaming services not compliant with IT Rules

Netflix and Sony Liv are the only two streaming platforms currently in full-compliance with the Indian government’s new Information Technology Rules, 2021 governing online intermediaries, streaming services, and online news, an analysis by MediaNama found. While the new rules were issued in February, and streaming services were expected to be compliant with immediate effect, multiple industry sources told MediaNama that the government had informally set a deadline of three months. Thus, they were expected to be compliant by May 25, 2021, a week from now.

I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar had initially pushed back on demands from the OTT players for more time, saying, “If you cannot comply, then who can,” as reported by Forbes India. However, in conversations with members of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the ministry said that the industry may take three months to comply, three industry sources told MediaNama on condition of anonymity. A spokesperson for Hoichoi, a streaming platform, confirmed the May 25 deadline in an email to MediaNama.

It’s worth noting that this new deadline appears to be unofficial. We have reached out to IAMAI and the Ministry for comment on the deadline.

Although streaming services haven’t indicated that they plan on challenging these rules legally, they have raised concerns that the timelines may not be adequate. In April, the IAMAI asked the ministryfor an extension of one year for streaming platforms to implement parental controls.

What the compliance looks like for streaming services as on May 17. Full details below.

What the law requires

The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 requires streaming companies to do the following:

i) appoint a grievance redressal officer resident in India;
ii) have a complaint redressal mechanism for aggrieved viewers;
iii) follow standardised age ratings for content (U, U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A);
iv) show content descriptors for shows and films that contain things like violence, nudity, drug consumption etc.; and
v) set up parental control mechanisms to restrict access to mature content by children.

On top of this, the Rules also require streaming services to:

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  • be a part of a self-regulatory body; no such organisation has been announced yet;
  • register with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting;
  • and avoid publishing content that is illegal.

Analysis: most streaming services non-compliant

MediaNama looked at the websites of the 17 major streaming services in India and whether they had complied with the requirements under the new IT rules. MediaNama specifically looked at which streaming services had appoointed a grievance redressal officer and had created a complaints portal as of May 17, a week prior to the deadline. We did not look at other legal requirements that need to be in place, such as joining a self-regulatory organisation, as mandated by the government under the new IT Rules.

For the purposes of this analysis, age ratings that comply with the government’s standard are systems that have the five age ratings described above.

  1. Netflix has listed a grievance redressal officer, has a complaint redressal mechanism for India, has age ratings that comply with the government’s standards, has content descriptors for mature content, and has put in parental control mechanisms in place. The company declined to comment for this story.
  2. Amazon Prime Video has not published a grievance redressal officer on its website, and does not have a complaint redressal mechanism as outlined in the Rules. However, Prime Video has age ratings, content descriptors, and a parental control mechanism. The company declined to comment for this story.
  3. Disney+ Hotstar has a grievance redressal officer, a complaint mechanism, and age ratings. However, the age ratings are not compliant to the government’s five-level standard, and while Hotstar has content descriptors on some content, it does not have parental controls, and instead has a “Kids” section of the service for the moment. The company did not return a request for comment.
  4. ZEE5 does not have a grievance redressal officer, but has age ratings and a complaints mechanism. The ratings are not compliant with the government’s standards. Content descriptors and parental controls are present on the platform. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
  5. Sony LIV has a complaint mechanism and a grievance redressal officer listed on a document hosted on its website. It has age ratings compliant with the government’s standards, and has content descriptors on content along with parental controls.
  6. Jio Cinema does not comply with any of the IT Rules’ requirements. Jio did not return a request for comment.
  7. Hoichoi has a complaint mechanism and a parental control feature, but does not comply with other requirements; however, the company said in a statement shared with MediaNama that it plans on being fully compliant by the government’s deadline.
  8. Lionsgate Play has a complaint mechanism, but no grievance officer whose details are published on the website. Its age ratings are not compliant with government standards. It has parental controls, but content descriptors are not uniformly applied. “We are working towards implementing guidelines as a law abiding corporate within timeframe provided,” a Lionsgate Play spokesperson told MediaNama.
  9. Apple TV+ has age ratings that are not compliant with government standards. It has parental controls, but doesn’t check any other box in compliance. Apple did not return request for comment.
  10. YouTube Premium does not have a grievance redressal officer, but does have a generic legal form that can be used for legal requests around the world. Age ratings are present, but not compliant with government standards. Content descriptors are not present for YouTube Originals, and parental controls are not available either. Google did not respond to a request for comment.
  11. Aha has age ratings (non compliant with government standards) and does not comply with any other requirements. The Telugu-focused streaming service did not return a request for comment.
  12. SunNXT has a grievance redressal officer and a complaint mechanism, but is otherwise non-compliant. We wrote to the grievance officer for comment, and have not heard back as of yet.
  13. MX Player is fully noncompliant. The company did not return a request for comment.
  14. Voot is fully compliant apart from not having a grievance officer named on its website. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
  15. ShemarooMe has parental controls, but is otherwise not compliant. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
  16. Discovery Plus has age ratings that are not compliant with government standards. It has a complaint system, but no grievance redressal officer listed on its website. It has parental controls, but no content descriptors. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
  17. Hungama Play has partially implemented a version of content descriptors, and has a complaint mechanism, but is not compliant with other requirements. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

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