As it looks to regulate content on over-the-top (OTT) video streaming platforms, the Indian government has now given 100 days to streaming companies to set up an adjudicatory body. After meeting with representatives of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, MX Player, ALTBalaji, Hotstar, Voot, Jio, SonyLIV and Arre, information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar urged platforms to finalise a code of conduct within 100 days.
During the interaction, Javadekar cited examples of China, France, and Singapore where video streaming platforms are now regulated by government norms. He also stressed that self-regulation is required for these platforms as most of the Indian households are watching shows and movies on these platforms together. He cited an example of his own home where anyone can stream any content by getting access to the Amazon Fire Stick streaming device.
OTT Platforms Split Over DCCC
Last month Hotstar, Voot, Jio and SonyLIV proposed setting up of a Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC) which will govern norms related to moderation of content on video streaming platforms.
During the meeting, four OTT platforms — Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and ALTBalaji — refused to be a part of DCCC. While Amazon Prime had shown displeasure on the idea of DCCC, Netflix, Zee5, and ALTBalaji have asked for more time to think about it, according to sources quoted by Mumbai Mirror. CEO of MX Player said that that the representatives were in talks and would present their views to the ministry once a consensus is reached.
While the government is not looking for any regulation on these platforms, a DCCC signatory said that it is expecting companies to come forward with a self-regulation model. The government is expecting companies to find a better way of filtering content on the platforms. Notably, DCCC was first put forward by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and I&B ministry.
In January 2019, IAMAI had drafted a code for self-regulation on OTT titled ‘Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers’. The code had urged OTT players to remove any content that is banned under Indian law. Such content includes disrespecting the national emblem, national flag or national anthem, hurting religious sentiments, promoting violence against the state, or showing child pornography.
Although the government is allowing OTT platforms to come up with self-regulation, there have been many instances where platforms have removed content from the platform without any explanations.
Recently, Hotstar banned an episode of the news satire show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which was critical of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s handling of the 2002 Gujarat riots, that left at least 1,044 dead and 223 missing with several thousands injured.
Last year, Amazon Prime Video also decided to remove the fifth season premiere of political drama, Madam Secretary, which touched upon Hindu nationalism, violence against Muslims and other minorities in India. On the other hand, Netflix has come under BJP-affiliated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) scanner due to several shows including the dystopian series Leila, which the right-wing organisation claimed had created “suspicion and distrust” for Hinduism and “maligned its symbols”.