In an attempt to avoid a tussle with the Indian government, leading online video streaming players like Netflix, Hotstar, and Reliance Jio along with others may soon sign up for a voluntary censorship code.
A media report citing sources said that this self-censorship code would stop them from showing content that’s banned by Indian courts, disrespect the national emblem and flag, outrages religious sentiments, promotes terrorism or violence against state and shows children in sexual acts.
Sources said that these companies have seen voluntary censorship as a preemptive move to avoid the Indian government imposing its own rules, which some players expect will be onerous. However, some players who are unlikely to sign up for the code include Amazon, Facebook and Google, who fear this move will set a “dangerous” precedent of regulating the internet and interfere with creative freedom.
The self-censorship code will most likely adopt a redressal mechanism that will allow viewers to send complaints if they judge the over-the-top (OTT) services to have violated it. This may evolve into an adjudicatory body to resolve customer complaints.
Other members in favour of the code are said to be Zee5, Times Internet, Eros Now and Alt Balaji, all of which have parent firms that also run traditional broadcast businesses. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) is facilitating the process.
IAMAI president Subho Ray said the code is still a work in progress and no one has yet accepted or rejected it.
The discussion about self-censorship first came to light in September when a meeting of top players in the video-on-demand (VOD) industry discussed the possibility of such a code and what it would look like. At the time, some of the top concerns of these VOD companies are about regulatory uncertainty, unpredictable censorship and court rulings that could impact their long-term business potential in India.
Soon after, Amazon, with its Prime streaming services, backed out from the plans as it felt that its subscribers might express outrage if the former adopts an industry censorship code and makes any alterations in movies and shows that the subscribers have paid to watch.
Since then, the latest update came in when Indian telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) released a consultation paper on ‘Regulatory Framework for Over The Top (OTT) Communication Services’.
The telecom regulator was seeking to examine the implications of the growth of OTTs; the relationship between OTT players and Telecom Service Providers (TSPs); the similarity, if any, between services provided by the TSPs and OTT players; changes that may be required in the current regulatory framework to govern these entities; and the manner in which such changes should be affected.
Looks like the companies realised the close call of government interference and have chosen voluntary censorship over regulators bringing in control on their streaming services.
[The development was reported by ET.]