Online content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, Zee5, and 11 others have signed a universal ‘self-regulation’ code, under the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
The signatories include Zee5, Viacom 18, Disney+Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, MX Player, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Arre, HoiChoi, Hungama, Shemaroo, Discovery Plus and Flickstree.
The IAMAI said that the present code has a framework for age classification, content description for titles and access control tools. It also has a grievance redressal and escalation mechanism in case signatories do not comply with the guidelines.
Previous drafts of this code had called for the setting up of a Digital Content Complaints Committee that would hear appeals from viewers and had the power to penalise streaming services, but it doesn’t appear in the version that has been signed.
Instead, each content provider will now set up a Consumer Complaints Department, and/or an internal committee, as well as an advisory panel to deal with complaints, appeals and escalations.
This advisory panel will constitute a minimum of three members, including an independent external advisor and two senior executives of the content provider.
"The goal of this industry-wide effort is to empower consumers with information and tools to assist them in making an informed choice with regard to viewing decisions for them and their families, while at the same time, nurturing creativity and providing creators the freedom to tell the finest stories,” the IAMAI said.
This code has been signed after much internal disagreement for weeks, with some streaming services approaching the government without the consensus of all.
An earlier draft said that content which would be prohibited would include content which "promotes and encourages disrespect" to the sovereignty and integrity of India; promotes and encourages terrorism or other forms of violence against the State or content, etc. It is unclear if the present version has these as well.
The Code is effective from August 15. According to the statement, each signatory to the code has agreed to appoint an external advisor as part of the grievance redressal mechanism within 60 days from September 4.
In November 2019, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said that platforms should come together and have a self-regulatory model which would not require intervention from the government.
Tarun Katial, Chair, Digital Entertainment Committee of IAMAI said, “With the Framework for Age Classification, Content Descriptions and parental controls in combination with a grievance redressal system, we’ve made it easier for consumers to make the right viewing decisions for themselves and their families.”
“The combination of empowering consumers and enabling creative excellence will help Online Curated Content Providers be at the forefront of taking the best stories from India to the world and bringing the finest stories from around the world to Indian consumers. Most of the major streaming services have adopted the Code and we look forward to others joining,” he added.
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