New IT rules put in place mechanism for adherence to Ethics Code by OTT platforms: Centre to SC : 24-03-2021

The Centre informed the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 put in place an institutional mechanism for adherence of Digital Media Ethics Code by the OTT platforms. It said the government was seized of the need for developing an institutional mechanism regarding regulation of audio visual content streamed on OTT platforms and was consulting the stakeholders over the past two years.

The IT Rules, 2021 also provides for self-classification of audio visual content of such platforms into five age-based categories for informed choice by viewers, it said.

The Centre said it has received several complaints/ representations from members of civil society, members of Parliament, Chief Ministers regarding the content of programmes being streamed on OTT platforms and the need for putting in place a mechanism to check content on these platforms.

In an affidavit, filed in a pending petition, the government said it notified the new rules on February 25, to put in place an institutional mechanism for following a code of ethics by Over-The-Top (OTT) players and a redressal of any grievances in this regard.

“It is respectfully submitted that the answering respondent is seized of the need for developing an institutional mechanism regarding regulation of audio visual content streamed on OTT platforms and has been in active consultation with stakeholders over the period of last two years,” it said.

“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 to the content on the OTT platforms”, it said.

The government said the new rules 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 account and a healthy classification is being done.

It said that the government is taking measures to further strengthen mechanisms in accordance with the rules.

The Centre’s affidavit has been filed on a plea of one Shashank Shekhar Jha, seeking regulating OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime by an autonomous body.

The top court had on October 15, last year sought response from the Centre on the plea of Jha and co-petitioner Apurva Arhatia, who have said that a proper board/institution /association for the monitoring and management of content on different OTT/Streaming and digital media platforms was needed.

“With cinemas theatres unlikely to open anytime soon in the country, OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board,” the plea said.

At present, however, there is no law or autonomous body governing the digital content to monitor and manage these digital contents and it is made available to the public at large without any filter or screening, it said.

“Lack of legislation governing OTT/Streaming Platforms is becoming evident with each passing day and every new case that is filed on these grounds.

“The government is facing heat to fill this lacuna with regulations from the public and the Judiciary; still the relevant government departments have not done anything significant to regularise these OTT/Streaming Platforms,” the plea said.

None of the OTT/Streaming platforms including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, and Hotstar have signed the self-regulation provided by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting since February 2020, it said.

The ministry had earlier told the top court in a separate case that there is a need to regulate digital media and that the court may first appoint a committee of persons as amicus before laying down guidelines with respect to the regulation of hate speech in the media.

Source : PTI

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