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Not a single instance of govt intervention since new IT rules: I&B secy

Information and broadcasting secretary Amit Khare on Thursday said that the government has not received a single serious complaint where it had to intervene regarding content on over the top (OTT) platforms, such as Netflix and Hotstar, and digital news media outlets since the new intermediary and digital media rules came into effect on February 25.

“In the last five months, there has not been a single occasion when the oversight mechanism of the government was used to resolve any complaints,” Khare said. “This was the purpose of creating a self regulating mechanism; it was always an enabling provision.”

The last major complaint received by the ministry was respect to Amazon Prime original show Tandav. Complainants said the show disrespected religious sentiments, said an official familiar with the matter who asked not to be named. The government also sought a response from the makers of the show. The cast and crew have since apologised.

Khare added that the lack of complaints, however, did not obviate the need for the emergency powers possessed by the government to order a takedown of content. “The provision may be required at a later stage but only to enable the government to act in case of emergency. As you can see, the government has not had to intervene even once until now.”

The new intermediary and digital media guidelines also institute a three-tier mechanism for grievance redressal with an inter-ministerial committee at its apex, require platforms to appoint grievance redressal officers in case of OTT and digital news media platforms, and give the I&B ministry takedown powers over the content circulated online.

The takedown powers, which for the first time covered news media outlets, are provided for under section 69(A) of the information technology act. A designated officer of the IT minister, at present joint secretary Vikram Sahay, can order takedown of content under the section in the interest of the integrity and sovereignty of India or if it is seen as a threat to public order.

The provision was a major cause of concern, with news media platforms raising their voice against the section stating that it will lead to censorship of content. The rules, which were notified in February, have been challenged in the court by some media companies.

“There was a misapprehension that the government will use the oversight mechanism for day-to-day business,” Khare said. “But that is not the case.”

While there is no requirement for the digital news media publishers to be registered with the ministry, information pertaining to their grievance redressal officer in India, self-regulating body of which the publisher is a member and the details of the editor were sought by the ministry on May 26. Nearly 1800 digital media outfits and 41 over the top platforms have already shared these.

The self regulating bodies of the platforms have also created their own oversight mechanism, which form the second tier of the self regulation system. For the Indian Broadcasting and Digital Foundation, the committee will be headed by Justice (retd) Vikramjit Sen, for IAMAI it will be Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri (retd) and for the News Broadcasters Federation it will be former CJI Jagdish Singh Khehar, the official quoted above said. Hindustan Times

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