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Netflix, Amazon, Alt Balaji want protection from FIRs, time to classify shows based on age

Video-streaming platforms such as Alt Balaji, Netflix and Amazon Prime Thursday stressed on the need for insulation from FIRs and complaints in the backdrop of an elaborate grievance redressal mechanism they need to follow as part of the new rules laid down by the government, ThePrint has learnt.

They also sought to know if the three-tier grievance redressal mechanism will prevent FIRs from being filed against them in future.

Industry sources told ThePrint the platforms also wanted further time to classify their content into five age-based categories as mandated in the new rules, stating that it is a technologically challenging process as a wide collection of content has already been released.

These were the two major points put forth by the OTT platforms when they met Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar Thursday.

After the meeting, Javadekar in a tweet said the interaction was “fruitful” where the provisions of the OTT rules were explained to the platforms.

“All representatives have welcomed the new guidelines. The ministry and industry will partner together to make the OTT experience better for all audiences,” he tweeted.

While industry body, Internet and Mobile Association of India, had earlier urged the government to hold public consultation over the rules, a government statement issued Thursday said Javadekar told the industry representatives that the government has done several rounds of consultation with OTT players in the past and stressed the need for self-regulation.

He also stated he had received representations from cinema and TV industries saying that while there were regulations for them, none existed for the OTT industry.

Therefore, the decision was taken by the government to come out with “progressive institutional mechanism for OTT players and develop a level playing field with the idea of self-regulation”, said the statement.

He also clarified that in the self-regulatory body, no member will be appointed by the government.

ThePrint had earlier reported that video streaming platforms were worried the new rules for over-the-top (OTT) and digital media players do not explicitly earmark their representation in self-regulatory bodies, which will form the middle rung of the three-tier grievance redressal structure.

‘Hope to have more fruitful engagement with govt’
Sources in the streaming platforms told ThePrint this was just the first meeting in which they sought to highlight the major concerns over the new rules.

“We gave our feedback to the ministry, which assured us that the concerns will be looked into. We hope to have more fruitful engagement with the government so that the industry and the government can come on the same page on the rules and work together,” an industry source said.

While video-streaming platforms are a new growing industry in India, their content has often invited complaints, FIRs and PILs.

The latest example is that of Tandav’s. The makers of the web series on Amazon Prime Video were booked by Uttar Pradesh Police for allegedly promoting enmity between different groups, injuring or defiling a place of worship, public mischief, forgery, and charges under the Information Technology Act.

The makers deleted two scenes fearing arrest and Amazon Prime Video even offered an apology for hurting sentiments earlier this week.

The rules
Under the new rules, streaming platforms will have to set up a three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.

The first tier would comprise a grievance redressal officer to be appointed by each company, while a self-regulatory body to be set up by the industry will form the second tier.

The third tier will be that of government oversight — which may involve setting up an inter-ministerial committee to take a call on escalated grievances or a direct intervention by the I&B secretary in case of an emergency.

The rules also state that the OTT platforms will have to classify their content into five age-based categories — U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).

They will also have to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as “A”. Theprint

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