The long-discussed self regulation code to govern Indian streaming content has finally been drafted and signed by 15 of the country’s leading streamers.
The code is seen as self regulation, by the industry, rather than government imposed control and censorship of the fast growing streaming sector.
Signatories of the ‘Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs (Online Curated Content Providers),’ created by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus Hotstar, Zee5, Viacom18’s Voot, ALTBalaji, Eros Now, MX Player, Discovery Plus, Jio Cinema, HoiChoi, Arre, Flickstree, Hungama and Shemaroo. SonyLIV has yet to sign.
“The goal of this industry-wide effort is to empower consumers with information and tools to assist them in making informed choice with regard to viewing decisions for them and their families, while at the same time, nurturing creativity and providing creators the freedom to tell the finest stories,” an IAMAI statement said.
The code had been in the works from 2018, and in January, 2019, some OTT platforms signed a voluntary best practices document that has now been expanded into the final code. The government of India is reluctant to impose censorship on the OTT players, preferring that they control themselves.
The code includes a framework for age classification and content descriptions for titles, as well as access control tools. It also introduces a grievance mechanism for reporting non-compliance with the prescribed guidelines. Each signatory streamer is required to set up a consumer complaints department and/or an internal committee and an advisory panel to deal with complaints and appeals. The advisory panel will have at least three members including an independent external advisor and two senior executives from the streamer. The external advisors have to be appointed two months from now.
Prohibited content under the code includes: content which deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag; content which represents a child engaged in real or simulated sexual activities or any representation of the sexual parts of a child for primarily sexual purposes; content which deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community; content which deliberately and maliciously promotes or encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against the 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.
Zee5 CEO Tarun Katial, who is chair of the digital entertainment committee at the IAMAI, said: “The Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs is built around a shared belief that consumer empowerment and creative excellence are key to the long-term success of the Indian entertainment industry. With the framework for age classification, content descriptions and parental controls in combination with a grievance redressal system, we’ve made it easier for consumers to make the right viewing decisions for themselves and their families.”
“The combination of empowering consumers and enabling creative excellence will help online curated content providers be at the forefront of taking the best stories from India to the world and bringing the finest stories from around the world to Indian consumers,” Katial added.
The code is effective immediately.