Streaming platforms to self-regulate content in India
Participating companies must establish an internal redressal department to receive and consider complaints from consumers directly or those forwarded by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Streaming platforms including Netflix, Hotstar, Voot and SonyLiv, have signed and agreed to follow a new industry code of conduct and self-regulation for online content in India.
The streaming platforms, also known as Online Curated Content Providers (OCCPs), have voluntarily signed a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
Other platforms to sign the code are Zee5, Arre, ALT Balaji and Eros Now, read a statement.
This marks the first time global streaming giant Netflix has signed on to this kind of code in a single country. It previously adopted a similar code for the Southeast Asia region.
The code, which has been in the works for over a year, establishes guiding principles for OCCPs to conduct themselves in a responsible and transparent manner and at the same time ensures that consumer interests are protected.
Amazon Prime Video, which launched in India two years ago, was not among the signatories.
According to hollywoodreporter.com, Amazon, however, has no plans to sign up to the voluntary code, which covers sexual and religious topics, among others, and sets a process for consumer complaints.
When contacted by The Hollywood Reporter, an Amazon representative said: "While we are assessing the situation, we believe that the current laws are adequate to fulfil this mission."
While theatrical films and television are regulated in India, the country currently does not have any official guidelines for the streaming space. Last year, Netflix was hit with a lawsuit, which is still ongoing, over its first Indian original Sacred Games, which stars Saif Ali Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
As per the statement, the objectives of the code are to: Empower consumers to make informed choices on age-appropriate content; protect the interests of consumers in choosing and accessing the content they want to watch at their own time and convenience; safeguard and respect creative freedom of content creators and artists; nurture creativity, create an ecosystem fostering innovation and abide by an individual's freedom of speech and expression and provide a mechanism for complaints redressal in relation to content made available by respective OCCPs.
The IAMAI highlighted that the "constitutional framework of India upholds freedom of speech and expression, including commercial speech" and that the signatories to the code "seek to uphold the freedom as envisaged in the constitution of India".
The code prohibits content that "deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag" or "represents a child engaged in real or simulated sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes".
It also prohibits content that deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community; promotes or encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against any state of India or its institutions and "content that has been banned for exhibition or distribution by online video service under applicable laws or by any court with competent jurisdiction".
Participating companies must establish an internal redressal department to receive and consider complaints from consumers directly or those forwarded by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Welcoming the initiative, Viacom's Indian partner Network18 Media group general counsel Kshipra Jatana said: "This endeavour is a significant step forward in striking the right balance between defending creating freedom and protecting consumer interests. All the signatories to the code have agreed to adhere to and uphold the principles enshrined in the code both in form and in substance."
Adding to that, Ashok Nambissan, General Counsel, Sony Pictures Networks India Private Limited, said: "Self-regulation encourages creativity and makes content creators more responsive to their viewers. It's worked well for broadcast media and there's no reason for it not to do so for curated video content. We are happy to be part of this industry initiative."