Explained: What OTT Platforms’ ‘Toolkit’ for Self-Regulation Means

The ‘toolkit’ aims to address the objections of the Union I&B Ministry to the OTT platforms’ self-regulation code.

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Explainers
4 min read
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The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), on 11 February, announced the adoption of a ‘toolkit’ to implement the Universal Self-Regulation Code that was signed by 17 major streaming services and put in motion on 4 September 2020.

According to IAMAI, the core purpose of this 'toolkit' is to provide for procedures to implement the provisions of the Code, assist the OTT platforms in fulfilling their commitments and responsibilities, and to achieve effective self-regulation goals as envisioned by the signatories of the Code.

The ‘toolkit’ also aims to address the objections of the Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry to the self-regulation code.

In November, the cabinet secretariat had brought OTT streaming services under the administrative jurisdiction of the I&B Ministry – which has not given its nod to the Code over a perceived lack of independence in the appeals bodies and absence of a list of prohibited content.

The Quint explains what the self-regulation code sets out to achieve, what concerns the I&B Ministry has with it and how the ‘toolkit’ seeks to address the issues in order to get the Code going.

Explained: What OTT Platforms’ ‘Toolkit’ for Self-Regulation Means

  1. 1. What is the Toolkit About?

    The ‘toolkit’, prepared by IAMAI in consultation with the streaming platforms, primarily aims to iron out the issues with the industry’s self-regulation code that was put in motion on 4 September 2020.

    The toolkit provides details of the functioning of OTT platforms’ grievance redressal mechanism for complaints received, including composition of their internal panel and advisory panels.

    Expand
  2. 2. What is the OTT Streaming Platforms’ Self-Regulation Code?

    The streaming platforms, referred to as ‘Online Curated Content providers’ (OCCP) in the Code titled “Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs” had agreed to a slew of updated measures following two unsuccessful attempts at self-regulation.

    These include a modified grievance redressal mechanism, elimination of a stifling ‘prohibited content’ list as well as of penalties for violation of the code.

    As online content expands and grows across the country and across age groups, spurred by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, its unfettered streaming across platforms has attracted renewed attention for regulation from the government, political parties, legal advisors and consumers.

    Therefore, the platforms have come up with a system of self-regulation in order to address consumer complaints and other issues related to content.

    Expand
  3. 3. What are the Objectives of the Toolkit?

    According to the document, the Toolkit has four outlined objectives

    1. Set out the guiding principles and code of ethics for the reference of the Signatories
    2. Provide for procedures to effectuate the provisions of the self-regulation code
    3. Assist the Signatories in fulfilling their commitments and responsibilities as set out in the Code
    4. Achieve effective self-regulation goals as envisioned by the signatories in the Code.
    Expand
  4. 4. Who Are the Signatories to the Self-Regulation Code?

    The Code has been adopted by seventeen (17) leading Online Curated Content Providers in India. The present set of signatories include:

    • 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
    • Lionsgate Play
    Expand
  5. 5. What Issues Does the Union I&B Ministry Have with the Self-Regulation Code?

    The notification on 9 November, issued under the allocation of business rules, essentially means that the Union I&B Ministry will now have principal administrative jurisdiction over online news portals and OTT/streaming platforms.

    However, even before that, IAMAI had been communicating its efforts to the Ministry at getting the streaming industry to formulate a self-regulation code.

    The I&B Ministry had been working with the OTT sector for nearly two years on a self-regulation code and grievance redressal mechanism. There have been three separate versions between January 2019 and September 2020.

    The first and second versions of codes of best practices and self-regulation, published in January 2019 and February 2020, were met with mixed acceptance by streaming platforms amid serious disagreements pertaining to the grievance redressal mechanism, inadequate consultations and some stringent restrictions on content.

    Shortly after the presentation of the February version, which only saw five platforms sign on, the Union I&B Ministry had given the industry 100 days to finalise a code of self-regulation and create an adjudicatory authority.

    According an Indian Express report, the Ministry refused to support the Code, stating it lacked independent third-party monitoring, did not have a well-defined Code of Ethics and did not clearly enunciate prohibited content.

    Expand
  6. 6. Does the Toolkit Address the Ministry’s Issues?

    It does to an extent. The Toolkit states that “the signatories have agreed to adhere to all applicable laws of the land.”

    These include the IT Act, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986; Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; Contempt of Courts Act, Official Secrets Act. This has been done ostensibly to address the Ministry’s objections related to the absence of a list of prohibited content in the self-regulation code.

    Moreover, responding to the Ministry’s concerns of the perceived lack of independence in the appeals bodies of the platforms by advising streaming services to have at least as many external independent members in their complaint bodies as internal members, and by including a list of laws applicable to content online.

    The grievance redressal mechanism will be a two-tier system: Tier-I will consist of an internal committee or a consumer complaints department. Tier-II will consist of an advisory panel to take up appeals from the first tier.

    “It is suggested that the Advisory Panel shall consist of at least an equal number of Independent Members (vis-à-vis the signatory’s internal members),” the toolkit states.

    Moreover, the toolkit also mentions that the external member shall be the chairperson of the advisory panel. The chairperson will preside over, convene and adjourn meetings of the panel.

    (The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

    Expand

What is the Toolkit About?

The ‘toolkit’, prepared by IAMAI in consultation with the streaming platforms, primarily aims to iron out the issues with the industry’s self-regulation code that was put in motion on 4 September 2020.

The toolkit provides details of the functioning of OTT platforms’ grievance redressal mechanism for complaints received, including composition of their internal panel and advisory panels.

What is the OTT Streaming Platforms’ Self-Regulation Code?

The streaming platforms, referred to as ‘Online Curated Content providers’ (OCCP) in the Code titled “Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs” had agreed to a slew of updated measures following two unsuccessful attempts at self-regulation.

These include a modified grievance redressal mechanism, elimination of a stifling ‘prohibited content’ list as well as of penalties for violation of the code.

As online content expands and grows across the country and across age groups, spurred by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, its unfettered streaming across platforms has attracted renewed attention for regulation from the government, political parties, legal advisors and consumers.

Therefore, the platforms have come up with a system of self-regulation in order to address consumer complaints and other issues related to content.

What are the Objectives of the Toolkit?

According to the document, the Toolkit has four outlined objectives

  1. Set out the guiding principles and code of ethics for the reference of the Signatories
  2. Provide for procedures to effectuate the provisions of the self-regulation code
  3. Assist the Signatories in fulfilling their commitments and responsibilities as set out in the Code
  4. Achieve effective self-regulation goals as envisioned by the signatories in the Code.

Who Are the Signatories to the Self-Regulation Code?

The Code has been adopted by seventeen (17) leading Online Curated Content Providers in India. The present set of signatories include:

  • 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
  • Lionsgate Play

What Issues Does the Union I&B Ministry Have with the Self-Regulation Code?

The notification on 9 November, issued under the allocation of business rules, essentially means that the Union I&B Ministry will now have principal administrative jurisdiction over online news portals and OTT/streaming platforms.

However, even before that, IAMAI had been communicating its efforts to the Ministry at getting the streaming industry to formulate a self-regulation code.

The I&B Ministry had been working with the OTT sector for nearly two years on a self-regulation code and grievance redressal mechanism. There have been three separate versions between January 2019 and September 2020.

The first and second versions of codes of best practices and self-regulation, published in January 2019 and February 2020, were met with mixed acceptance by streaming platforms amid serious disagreements pertaining to the grievance redressal mechanism, inadequate consultations and some stringent restrictions on content.

Shortly after the presentation of the February version, which only saw five platforms sign on, the Union I&B Ministry had given the industry 100 days to finalise a code of self-regulation and create an adjudicatory authority.

According an Indian Express report, the Ministry refused to support the Code, stating it lacked independent third-party monitoring, did not have a well-defined Code of Ethics and did not clearly enunciate prohibited content.

Does the Toolkit Address the Ministry’s Issues?

It does to an extent. The Toolkit states that “the signatories have agreed to adhere to all applicable laws of the land.”

These include the IT Act, Indian Penal Code, 1860; Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986; Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967; Contempt of Courts Act, Official Secrets Act. This has been done ostensibly to address the Ministry’s objections related to the absence of a list of prohibited content in the self-regulation code.

Moreover, responding to the Ministry’s concerns of the perceived lack of independence in the appeals bodies of the platforms by advising streaming services to have at least as many external independent members in their complaint bodies as internal members, and by including a list of laws applicable to content online.

The grievance redressal mechanism will be a two-tier system: Tier-I will consist of an internal committee or a consumer complaints department. Tier-II will consist of an advisory panel to take up appeals from the first tier.

“It is suggested that the Advisory Panel shall consist of at least an equal number of Independent Members (vis-à-vis the signatory’s internal members),” the toolkit states.

Moreover, the toolkit also mentions that the external member shall be the chairperson of the advisory panel. The chairperson will preside over, convene and adjourn meetings of the panel.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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