I&B Secretary Amit Khare speaking to ANI. (Photo/ANI)
I&B Secretary Amit Khare speaking to ANI. (Photo/ANI)

New OTT guidelines intended to empower audience, safeguard platforms: I&B secretary

ANI | Updated: Feb 26, 2021 22:03 IST

By Sahil Pandey
New Delhi [India], February 26 (ANI): The newly formed guidelines to regulate Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms and digital media by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) are intended to empower the audience and also safeguard OTT platforms, said I&B secretary Amit Khare on Friday.
Khare said the government fully understands that there are different types of media but emphasised that there should be a level playing field.
"We are empowering the citizen to make informed choices and benchmarks we have kept about the age are an international practice. You go to any country then disclosure is made on the basis of self-classification unlike films where classification is done by the Central Board of Film Certification. Here classification will be done by the platforms but they will inform that this is as per the age criteria," Khare told ANI.
The I&B Secretary, talking about OTT and online news media said that these fields are new and growing and are empowering citizens.
"There are three objectives: first, an institutional mechanism for this sector. Second, many times ordinary citizens feel helpless that they do not have any system of redressal for their grievances. So a grievance redressal system empowers the citizen in case there is any misapprehension or if they feel they have been wronged, then they can write to somebody and approach the authority. The third objective is to introduce a sort of a level playing field between different media. After when the same content is in print media, then there is different regulation; if it is on television then different regulation and if it is on OTT then there is no regulation," Khare said.
The government fully understands the types of media are different but there should be a level playing field.
"There should be a level playing field and we understand it fully and I will repeat that we fully understand that type of media is different as TV is different from films and films are different from web series. We cannot have the same criteria but there should be some sort of similarity in the goal post and level playing field does not mean the same field for everybody but some sort of similarity in regulation should be there. Therefore, what has been announced is a soft touch self-regulatory mechanism with minimal interference of the government," he added.
He also stressed that government has full faith in the Indian platform as guidelines are not much of compliance but more of a disclosure.
"We have full faith in Indian platforms either OTT players or digital news, as this is not much of compliance but more of a disclosure. They would be disclosing the information like who is the editor, who is the grievance officer to lodge any complaint. If there is a complaint against a newspaper then you write the letter to the editor. If there is a complaint against a TV program there is NBSA. One can write to them. We just want that they should disclose the information. If a citizen feels that some portal makes an allegation which that person wants to refute then he or she should know that where they can send a mail to refute back. It is more of a self-disclosure system. In the worst case which we do not anticipate, then provisions of IT Act will apply," Khare said.
Khare added that the government stands for journalistic freedom and this was far more liberal than for print or TV or films and now the other three sectors demand that government should be more liberal with them.
There should self-classification of content for OTT platforms, said Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday while unveiling the new policies for digital media.
"For OTT, there should be self-classification of content for 13+, 16+, and Adult categories. There has to be a mechanism of parental lock and ensuring compliance that children do not see that," Javadekar said during a press conference.
The OTT platforms, called the publishers of online-curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories which are U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
As per the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as "A".
The publisher of online curated content shall prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or program together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising on viewer description (if applicable) at the beginning of every program enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the program, read the guidelines.
The Rules seek to empower the users by mandating the intermediaries, including social media intermediaries, to establish a grievance redressal mechanism for receiving resolving complaints from the users or victims.
Intermediaries shall appoint a Grievance Officer to deal with such complaints and share the name and contact details of such officer. Grievance Officer shall acknowledge the complaint within 24 hours and resolve it within 15 days from its receipt.
To ensure online safety and dignity of users, especially women users, intermediaries shall remove or disable access within 24 hours of receipt of complaints of contents that exposes the private areas of individuals, show such individuals in full or partial nudity or in sexual activity or is in the nature of impersonation including morphed images. Such a complaint can be filed either by the individual or by any other person on his or her behalf.
According to the guidelines, users who wish to verify their accounts voluntarily shall be provided an appropriate mechanism to do so and provided with a demonstrable and visible mark of verification. (ANI)