Amid concerns among some OTT (Over-the-Top) players about the new digital media rules, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday said his ministry will partner with the industry to make the audience experience better and asserted that the guidelines focus on self-classification of content instead of any form of censorship.
Javadekar, after a meeting with representatives of OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and Alt Balaji, also said that they have welcomed the government's new guidelines. "Had a fruitful meeting with representatives from OTT industry and explained the provisions of the OTT rules. All representatives have welcomed the new guidelines. The ministry and industry will partner together to make the OTT experience better for all audiences," Javadekar tweeted.
The Union government on February 25 had notified new rules and guidelines for OTT platforms and digital news media, requiring them to make public their details and having a grievance redressal system in place. The minister held the interaction with representatives of various OTT platforms, including Alt Balaji, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Jio, Zee5, Viacom18, Shemaroo and MxPlayer, the information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry said in a statement.
While addressing representatives of the industry, the minister mentioned that in the past, the government had held several rounds of consultation with OTT players, and he stressed on the need for "self-regulation", it said. Javadekar said that he had received representations from the cinema and TV industries that while there were regulations for them, none existed for the OTT industry.
"Thus, it was decided that the government would come out with progressive institutional mechanism for OTT players and develop a level playing field with the idea of self-regulation," the statement said.
Informing industry representatives about the provisions of the rules, the minister said it merely requires them to disclose information and that there is no requirement of registration of any kind with the ministry.
The minister also said that a form for this will be ready soon, according to the statement.
"Furthermore, the rules focus on self-classification of content instead of any form of censorship. Further, OTT platforms are expected to develop an effective grievance redressal mechanism, the minister said.
Dispelling rumours, the minister clarified that in the self-regulating body, no member will be appointed by the government, the ministry said.
The ministry also said that while speaking on the power of the Union government, under the rules, the minister informed that the government will create an inter-departmental committee to look into complaints which remain unresolved at the self-regulatory level.
"The industry representatives welcomed the rules and thanked the minister for addressing most of their concerns. Finally the minster added that the ministry is open to any clarification or queries from the industry, the statement said.
In an office memorandum, the government reiterated that it announced on February 25 the Information Technology (Intermediary guidelines and digital media ethics codes) Rules, 2021, under the Information and Technology Act, 2000.
The rules relate to publishers of digital news and current affairs and publishers of online curated content which provide that code of ethics need to be followed by digital news publishers and publishers of OTT content, which includes five age based classifications ('U', 'U/A 7+', 'U/A 13+', 'U/A 16+' and 'A') in respect of OTT platforms.
The rules stated that a three-level grievance redressal mechanism consisting of the publisher (level-1), self-regulating body constituted by the publishers (level-2) and an oversight mechanism of the government (level-3), will dispose of grievances in a time-bound manner.
"Furnishing of information by publishers to the government and periodical disclosure of information regarding grievance redressal in public domain, according to the new digital media rules.