New Delhi: The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) on Thursday announced the approval of an ‘Implementation Toolkit’ for major video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney + Hotstar.
The ‘toolkit’ will help the platforms implement the universal self-regulatory code signed by 17 streaming players last September.
The new document also includes certain problems emphasizes in the code by the government, such as the lack of independent third party control and clarity about what is prohibited content.
Amit Goenka, Chairman of IAMAI’s Digital Entertainment Committee, said in a statement from the body that the toolkit endorses all critical points in the streaming platforms’ self-regulatory code and focuses on the feedback received from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, in particular on strengthening the story mechanism.
“It also includes clear tent poles that the OCCPs (Online Curated Content Providers) must undertake to achieve a common goal of responsibly entertaining millions of Indians,” he added.
The toolkit came into effect on February 10th. The I&B Ministry, which now oversees all online platforms, also comes out with a separate set of broad guidelines for the content.
What is an ‘implementation toolkit’?
The streaming platforms that have signed the universal self-regulatory code are ZEE5, Viacom 18 (Voot), Disney + Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, SonyLiv, MX Player, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Arre, HoiChoi, Hungama, Shemaroo, Discovery Plus, Aha and Lionsgate Play.
There are currently almost 40 video streaming platforms operating in India.
The IAMAI statement said the new document will help these signatories make a seamless transition to self-regulation and guide them through the relevant laws of the country, which will be adhered to by the signatories with regard to content.
It will also guide them through the fair and transparent functioning of the grievance mechanism, with a provision to escalate the matter to an advisory panel with independent members; and on conducting training programs for creative and legal teams of OCCPs to increase the knowledge and nuances of laws governing content.
The toolkit will also guide them in conducting consumer awareness programs to help increase understanding and use of age rating, content description and parental controls, and in implementing a detailed audit and compliance mechanism.
Provisions in the new document
The toolkit specifically mentions the applicable laws of the country and the relevant provisions that the platforms must comply with for content. This includes relevant sections of the Information Technology Act, the Indian Penal Code and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act of 1986.
With regard to the crucial complaint compensation mechanism, it requires signatories to establish a two-tier structure consisting of an internal committee and an advisory panel.
Any complaint about content being streamed through the platforms first comes up to the internal committee made up of representatives from the company.
If the complainant is not satisfied with the decision of the internal committee and wants to escalate the complaint, it will go to the advisory committee.
The government had objected to an earlier provision calling for this panel to consist largely of representatives of companies. The toolkit changes the provision and says that the panel will have an equal number of independent members and company representatives. The chair of the panel, an independent member, has the casting vote if a selection procedure is required.
The toolkit also provides for the establishment of an IAMAI secretariat that, among other things, monitors compliance with the provisions of the code by signatories.
It also states that the IAMAI will participate in consumer awareness campaigns in the media and consult with parent associations and schools on the availability of safety measures to protect the best interests of children.
Some internet rights experts are skeptical
Apar Gupta, executive director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, an NGO active in digital rights advocacy, is one of the experts in the field who are unimpressed with the toolkit. He called it the outcome of the controversies and legal threats facing online video streaming platforms.
“It is the result of calming a growing intolerance that has unfortunately also been supported by criminal records and statements from senior officials and politicians,” Gupta told ThePrint.
Gupta said it is unfortunate that the toolkit largely mimics censorship practices in the television and broadcasting industry.
“This has implications for the diversity of original content produced in India. At the same time, it will over time give more room to self-censorship and government control. These trends are clearly visible in television programs, ”he added.
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