Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and 13 other leading online content providers in India on Friday signed a self-regulation code, under which they will develop a framework for age-classification, access control and content description. The platforms will also set up a committee to address the complaints of consumers.
The Internet and Mobile Association of India, which brought the online platforms together, said that the self-regulation code was also adopted by Zee5, Viacom 18, Disney Hotstar, MX Player, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Arre, HoiChoi, Hungama, Shemaroo, Discovery Plus and Flickstree.
India’s Central Board of Film Certification does not have the power to censor or certify content on the internet. By law, certification is only required to screen and telecast films and trailers in theatres and on television. However, there have been increasing calls to censor online content.
The organisation added that the regulatory code will give the consumers more choice and control. “To give consumers more choice and control, the Universal Self-Regulation Code includes a framework for age classification and content descriptions for titles as well as access control tools,” the organisation said in a statement. “The Code also introduces a clear, transparent and structured grievance redressal and escalation mechanism for reporting non-compliance with the prescribed guidelines.”
“As a part of this mechanism, each OCCP [Online Curated Content Provider] will set-up a Consumer Complaints Department and/or an internal committee, as well as an advisory panel which will deal with complaints, appeals and escalations,” the organisation added. “The advisory panel will constitute a minimum of three members, including an independent external advisor and two senior executives of the respective OCCP.”
The self-regulation code is effective from 15 August, 2020. Each platform has been asked to appoint an external advisor for addressing consumer grievances within 60 days.
The hugely popular streaming platforms have been witnessing increased consumption amid the coronavirus crisis and the people need to have more control over the content, the Internet and Mobile Association of India said.
Tarun Katial, the chairperson of the Digital Entertainment Committee said the code is built around a shared belief that consumer empowerment and creative excellence are the key to an online platform’s success.
“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,” he said. “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.”
The companies’ decision to self regulate followed several complaints against the platforms. Netflix ran into trouble in 2018 when petitions demanded that certain scenes from its series Sacred Games be deleted as they allegedly defamed late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
A plea filed by non-governmental organisation Justice for Rights Foundation in the Delhi High Court in 2018 had claimed that online media streaming platforms showed “sexually explicit and vulgar” content that is “unregulated and uncertified” for public viewing. The NGO had alleged that shows like Sacred Games, Game of Thrones and Spartacus had “vulgar, profane, sexually explicit, pornographic, morally unethical and virulent” content which objectifies women.