Rules submitted for OTT platforms are similar to those in Aus, EU, Singapore

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has submitted before the Supreme Court that the new IT regulations will keep a strong check on the content on OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The government said the regulation is similar to mechanisms in many countries like Singapore, the European Union, Australia, etc.

The response from the government came on a plea filed by Supreme Court advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha seeking regulation of content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms.

“It is humbly submitted that in various jurisdictions across the globe like Singapore, European Union, Australia, etc., have also framed similar mechanisms regulating/ restricting access on the OTT platforms”, said the affidavit filed by MIB.

The affidavit said the government was already seized of the need for developing an institutional mechanism regarding regulation of audio video content streamed on OTT platforms and it has been in active consultation with stakeholders for over two years.

The affidavit added that the government had received several complaints, representations from members of civil society, MPs, chief ministers regarding contents of programmes being streamed on OTT platforms and the need for putting in place a mechanism to check the content on these platforms.

The government said there is a mechanism for regulation of the OTT platforms under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the new framed Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 has been notified by the government under Section 87 (2) of the IT Act, 2000 for regulation of online curated content. These rules were notified on February 25, 2021, for social media platforms, OTT players and digital media.

“In respect of the Internet, the IT Act has provisions for prohibition of publishing or transmitting content that is obscene, containing sexually explicit act or containing sexually explicit act involving a minor under Sections 67, 67A and 67B,” said the affidavit. The affidavit added that there are also provisions for criminal proceedings with punitive measures depending on the nature of complaints filed with police authorities.

“The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) rules 2021 are comprehensive in nature and framed keeping in view the major audience enjoyed by the OTT platforms and maintaining a fine balance so that various age groups are taken into an account and a healthy classification is being done”, said the affidavit.

The top court on March 5, had observed that the Centre’s guidelines on regulating content on OTT platforms lack teeth. The observation was made while granting protection from arrest to Amazon Prime Video’s India head Aparna Purohit in FIRs lodged over web series Tandav.

The new rules provide self-classification of audio-visual content of such platforms into five age-based categories for informed choice to be exercised by viewers. In these rules, “publishers and self-regulating bodies shall disclose all grievances received by them, the manner in which the grievances are disposed of, the action taken on the grievances, the reply sent to the complainant, etc., on a monthly basis.”

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