We are not bringing censorship to films on OTT: Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar

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On November 11, it was announced that online news portals and content providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and other OTT platforms will operate under the Information and Broadcasting ministry. However, now in a joint press conference, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Electronics and IT and Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Information and Broadcasting announced guidelines for OTT platforms. He emphasised that the ministry is not bringing censorship for OTT, but trusting the OTT platforms to introduce age-based classifications themselves.

Javadekar said, "I had asked for meetings twice with OTT platforms. After the first meeting, they didn’t come up with anything. Post the second meeting, and after waiting for six months, we decided to have an institutional mechanism. For films, we have CBFC, for TV we have programme code (BCCC), but we have nothing for the OTT. The same programme code (that is for TV) will be followed for OTT platforms. We are not bringing censorship to films on OTT. We are trusting the platforms to bring age-based classifications themselves."

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He said, “For example, we have a self-regulation body for TV where people complain and the judge addresses the grievances of the complainants. TV channels have to air an apology and channels are fined. Under self-regulation of OTT, the same process will be followed.”

In an official press release, rules related to OTT platforms were mentioned as: 

Code of Ethics prescribing guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms
Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms, called as the publishers of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five age-based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).

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 programme 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 programme, enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.

Self-regulation by the publisher:
The publisher shall appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer shall take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.

Self-Regulatory Body: There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court or independent eminent person and have not more than six members. Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. This body will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not be been resolved by the publisher within 15 days.

Oversight Mechanism: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-departmental committee for hearing grievances.

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