Shows such as ‘Leila’, ‘The Final Call’ and ‘Patriot Act’ have reportedly been flagged for their content.

Netflix Hotstar to be regulated Centre mulls certification for streaming platformsPixabay
news Online streaming Tuesday, September 03, 2019 - 16:23

Top officials of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are planning to meet representatives from OTT (Over the Top) platforms — referring to content made and streamed by online platforms, rather than through satellite or cable — as well as legal experts and others for certifying online content.

According to the Economic Times, the I&B ministry will hold talks with all major OTT players such as Hotstar, Voot, ZEE5, Arre, SonyLIV, ALTBalaji, Reliance Jio, Netflix and Eros Now, as well as legal experts and other stakeholders. This comes just days after Union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar invited suggestions for certification of online content from members of the film industry during a meeting he held on August 31.

Prakash Javadekar invited suggestions when he unveiled the new logo and certificate design of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). 

Currently in India, the Central Board of Film Certification certifies films based on the content the film has, and certifies it for a particular audience. However, it can choose not to certify a film for public exhibition for a variety of reasons — if it is against the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, decency, morality, etc. This is as per the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, which is why the CBFC is also known as the censor board. However, online content isn’t regulated, and if it is regulated, things like alcohol, smoking, nudity, etc. could be censored or regulated, just like films that are theatrically released.

The certification and regulation of online content has been an ongoing issue in the country, and has also been taken up by multiple courts. A PIL was filed in the Bombay High Court last year for the regulation of content. The Karnataka High Court held that the multimedia content transmitted or exhibited via the internet through platforms like YouTube, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix and Alt Digital cannot be regulated under the Cinematograph Act, 1952. The Delhi High Court dismissed a petition which sought the formulation of guidelines to regulate online streaming content, which was appealed in the High Court and is being heard. In May, the SC issued a notice to the Centre asking for a response.

These platforms are currently not governed by any law, but in January Netflix, Hotstar, Jio, Eros Now, Sony Pictures, Arre, AltBalaji, Zee5 and Viacom19 said that they would adhere to a ‘Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers’ to regulate their own content, but this isn’t legally enforceable.

Shows such as Leila, The Final Call and Patriot Act have reportedly been flagged for their content. Leila and Patriot Act both stream on Netflix, while The Final Call streams on Zee5.

“There have been at least seven PILs against the content of OTTs in various courts of India. Right now, there is nothing that the viewer can do if he has a problem with content except go to court. The model of Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), an independent self-regulatory body to address TV complaints, is what we are looking forward to discuss with stakeholders,” an official told Economic Times.

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