Rs 3 Lakh Penalty For Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar Over Objectionable Content? (IAMAI’s New Guidelines)

Rs 3 Lakh Penalty For Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar Over Objectionable Content? (IAMAI's New Guidelines)
Rs 3 Lakh Penalty For Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar Over Objectionable Content? (IAMAI’s New Guidelines)

As per the reports, the Internet and Mobile Association of India is releasing a new content code to govern the content on online streaming platforms that will lead to the setting up of an industry self-regulatory body called the Digital Content Complaints Council (DCCC).

What Is DCCC?

Basically, the DCCC will field complaints related to online content. 

The code is expected to be announced tomorrow at the IAMAI’s annual event, the India Digital Summit, though the draft we have doesn’t specifically mention a date, according to sources. Also, this may not be the final version.

Moreover, this is the second version of the code for online content platforms from the IAMAI, and according to industry sources, not all signatories to the previous code have signed on – Netflix and Arre. 

What Does Netflix Say?

Further, Netflix declined to comment on this subject. The earlier code had been signed by Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Arre, SonyLIV, ALT Balaji, Jio and Eros Now. 

Key streaming services had not signed the previous version including Amazon Prime, TVF Play, Yupp TV, Hungama Play, nor had YouTube (which has YouTube Red) and Facebook (which has Facebook Watch). 

As per the reports, many content providers who are IAMAI members were not informed about this new code until late last week, less than a week before the planned announcement. 

This new code is supposed to supersede the previous version.

Why A New Code?

With the application of this new code, the IAMAI is looking, with the DCCC, to create a position for itself that is similar to the Broadcast Content Complaints Council, which is an independent self-regulatory body for non-news general entertainment channels set up by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF).

Moreover, the Broadcast Content Code is fairly draconian, as we had illustrated here, by applying it to an episode of Sacred Games.

This code is similar to its previous version, tries to distinguish the curated content providers’ industry from User Generated Content sites, even though the IT Act itself doesn’t envision any such distinction, and treats all creators/curators of content as equal.

What Is The Difference Between The Codes?

The differences are listed below.

1. On Receiving Complaints From The Government

According to the new code, the content providers who sign this code will agree to receive complaints forwarded by any government entity, including “the National Consumer Helpline of India, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology and Ministry of Communications”, either directly or through the Digital Content Complaint Council. 

While in the previous version, two government departments — the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and MEITY could forward complaints to the grievance redressal departments of the platforms.

2. Invest Extensively In ‘Safety Features’

According to this, the signatories to this code will have to “invest extensively” in safety features such as those relating to content descriptors, age classification/maturity rating filtering and access/parental controls, to help consumers understand the kind of content they’re viewing.

3. Changes In Prohibited Content Types

  1. Removed – Basically the text “Content which deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section or community” has been removed.
  2. Modified – In this, the new code broadens the ambit of restrictions by including the text “Content which promotes and encourages disrespect to the sovereignty and integrity of India”, which seems to have replaced the fairly limited prohibition of “Content which deliberately and maliciously disrespects the national emblem or national flag”.
    1. According to this, the text “Content which promotes and encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against the State (of India) or its institutions” has replaced the previous text, which stated, “Content which deliberately and maliciously promotes or encourages terrorism and other forms of violence against the State (of India) or its institutions”.

4. Incorporation Of Parental Access Controls

Though it hasn’t been made mandatory, the new code says that signatories shall institute tools to ensure parental/access controls or adopt measures such as PIN/Password to access/restrict access to content meant for mature audiences/adult viewing.

5. Complaints Redressal Mechanisms

  1. Grievance Redressal Department – In the earlier version of the code, all signatories would have had to appoint a person or institute a department to ensure compliance with the code, and address grievances of the viewers. While in this version, the content companies will have to create a department called the Digital Content Complaint Forum which will oversee compliance with the code, provide guidance to the platform on the classification of content and descriptors, and receive complaints.
  2. Complaint Filing – In the earlier version of the code, the consumer would have had to file a complaint with the relevant video streaming platform. While in the new version, the consumer may file a complaint directly with the platform or with an industry body created under the IAMAI, called the Digital Content Complaints Council.
  3. Complaint Redressal – In the earlier version of the code, the complaint would have had to be acknowledged within 3 working days of the receipt of the complaint, and then respond to it within 10 to 30 working days, informing the complainant about the action taken if there was a violation. While in the new version, in case of the Digital Content Complaint Forum of a particular streaming service, they’ll need to acknowledge the complaint within 3 days and respond to it within 10 working days. In case more time is required, then they’ll have to inform the complainant, but not take more than 30 working days to respond. Also if there’s a violation, they’ll need to inform the complainant about the action taken. The IAMAI has also added a second tier in the new code, where the Online Curated Content Providers Governing Council, which will have a representative each from the signatories, will set up a secretariat to govern the operations of a new body, named as The Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC).
  4. Members Of The DCCC – The Governing Council will be nominating the members of the DCCC. Also, the DCCC will have 9 members, with a retired Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court as its Chairperson. The others will include three members from the media and entertainment industry, with experience in writing/curating/producing/directing content; 3 members from any national-level Statutory Commissions such as National Commission for Women (NCW), or National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), or National Commission for Scheduled Caste, or from National level Statutory Commissions such as National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, or National Commission for Minorities, or National Commission for Backward Classes, or National Human Rights Commission (NHRC); 2 members from content platforms.
  5. Complaints To The DCCC – It can work on the complaints not resolved at the Tier-1 (DCCF) level, or take up complaints suo moto, “in the interests of consumers”. Also, it can accept complaints from the government. Complaints pertaining to those who haven’t signed the code will be returned to the complainant, with a request to contact the content provider.
  6. Jurisdiction Of The DCCC – the DCCC will look into complaints related to age classification, Content, descriptors and/or parental access controls.
  7. Meetings And Decisions – The decisions of the DCCC will be by a simple majority, and they will also meet twice a month at the IAMAI office.
  8. Penalties – The DCCC may ask the content provider, post-adjudication of a complaint, to reclassify ratings of relevant content; and/or include a warning card or disclaimer; and/or edit synopsis of relevant content; and/or impose a financial penalty. The penalty shall be a maximum of Rs 3 lac and could be graded depending on the violation. While the previous version of the code did not specify penalties or punishment.

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