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Age-based content classification for OTTs, self-regulation for online news media: Govt

Union Information & Broadcasting (I&B) Minister Prakash Javadekar during a joint press conference with Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad urged over-the-top (OTT) platforms to come with self-regulatory guidelines.

His ministry prescribed the guidelines on the code of ethics for online news, OTT platforms and digital media based on a “soft-touch self-regulatory architecture” and three-tier grievance redressal mechanism for such online services.

This mechanism will include ‘self-regulation by the publishers; self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers; and an oversight mechanism’.

The Union Minister said OTTs will need to grade age-appropriate content. This classification of content by such online streaming services would be into five age-based categories ‘U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult)’. “There has to be a mechanism of parental lock and ensuring compliance that children don’t see that,” the Union Minister further said.

“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,” the minister said.

While reiterating the importance of press freedom, Javadekar warned that such freedom needs to be “responsible”, highlighting cases of fake news. He added that digital news platforms need to be self-governed on the lines of print media which has to follow the press council code.

“Online publishers will have to establish a self-regulatory body which will be headed by a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge or very eminent person in this category”, Javadekar added.

Such a body will have to register with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and will oversee the adherence by the publisher to the Code of Ethics and address grievances that have not been resolved by the publisher within 15 days on a concern being raised.
“OTT and digital news media will have to disclose their details. We are not mandating registration, we are seeking information,” he added.

Publishers of news on digital media would be required to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Programme Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act in order to provide a level playing field between the offline (print, TV) and digital media. Timesnownews

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