Focus on self-regulation at meet to discuss digital content players

Topics OTT services

The issue of online and digital content is a real challenge, and requires closer interaction between stakeholders before a standardised system of self-regulation can be developed, said Justice Gautam Patel on Friday, the concluding day of a seminar held in Mumbai on film certification and regulation of online content. 

The session, organised by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in partnership with the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), took place on Thursday and Friday. More than 100 stakeholders from the media and entertainment industry participated.

A conversation between all parties will lead to the evolution of a structured, common, discernible, and standardised system of self-regulation, Justice Patel said, according to a statement from the ministry.

In January, the online content platforms, also called over-the-top (OTT) service providers, agreed to a “Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers”. The code had been criticised for being very vague at the time. 

At least nine OTT players, including Netflix, Hotstar, Zee5, and ALT Balaji, had pledged to adopt the model code, or a set of best practices for content regulation, which was put together by industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI). Other signatories included Viacom18, Arre, Eros Now, Sony Pictures Networks, and Jio Digital Life.

“It was a discussion in the right direction. The fact that the OTT industry generates massive peripheral employment was also recognised. Most participants stressed on the need for the industry to be more responsible, and that censorship would not be an optimum solution,” said a person who attended the seminar. 

People in the know said the industry was working on creating a body that can be used for escalation of complaints regarding OTT platforms. However, industry is divided on having such a body, as they equate this with censorship. 

Retired Chief Justice Manmohan Sarin, chairman of the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT), said industry players had to work on self-regulation themselves. He said certifying authorities should focus on certification guidelines, without getting carried away by their personal bias, views, and prejudices.

According to media reports, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh met representatives from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, to ask them to restrict “anti-national” and “anti-Hindu” content on their shows.

A statement from the ministry said several participants raised questions on the technical feasibility of regulating the huge amount of online curated content, and the framework to be adopted for enforcing such regulations.

 Similar seminars are likely to be held, with more stakeholders, in other cities such as Kolkata and Chennai. The Ministry of I&B will begin talking to individual content streaming companies from next week, according to people in the know.

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