Government's New Guidelines for OTT Platforms Explained

Alan Joseph Alan Joseph
Mar 5, 2021 5 min read
Government's New Guidelines for OTT Platforms Explained

OTT platforms have been growing in India at a fast pace. The OTT market in India is expected to emerge as the worldโ€™s sixth-largest by 2024. The OTT market is also expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.6% in the next four years. There are currently about 40 providers of over-the-top-platforms (OTT) in the country.

India saw a 30% rise in the paid subscribers on OTT platforms. The total number of subscribers is now at 29 Million (around INR 212 crores). The increasing viewership and the exponential growth of the OTT platforms in the country have led the government to put in new rules and regulations for the OTT platforms. The government wants OTT platforms to be accountable for their content.

The recent issues by certain communities on the web series released by the OTT platforms and considering various other reasons, so the government has come up with the new regulations and rules.

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The government had issued new rules and guidelines for the social mediaintermediaries and social media platforms in the country. On 25 February 2021,the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has announced its draftInformation Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethiโ€ฆ
Government's Guidelines for Social Media Platforms

The New Guidelines for the OTT platforms are:

The Three Level Adressing Complaint
The Ratings
Content Classifications
Challenge Ahead for OTT Platforms
FAQ

The Three Level Adressing Complaint

OTT platforms will have to formulate a grievance mechanism which will consist of three levels. The rules require two levels of self-regulation.

First level

First level is a self-regulation by the OTT platform by appointing a grievance redressal officer. The officer will be responsible for redressals from various individuals. This will be part of the OTT platform.

Second level

Second level is an institutional self-regulatory body. It will comprise the industry experts in the field of OTT. This self-regulatory body will be headed by a retired supreme court or high court judge. It can also be headed by other famous or respected personalities in the relevant industry.

Third level

Third level is a regulatory body which will be interdepartmental. The committee will be set up by the government. This committee will hear the appeals arising out of the decisions taken at the second level. This regulator body will also take up complaints referred by the Ministry of Information and Broadcast (MIB).

The Ratings

Last year the government had issued rules to provide ratings for the OTT contents proposed by IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India). They will be similar to the age-sensitive categorizations which are U/A, U/A7+, U/A13+, U/A16+, etc.

The OTT platforms are required to self-categorize the contents on these five age-based categories. It is an initiative by the government to bring in censorship to the OTT platforms.

Market Share of OTT Platforms in India
Market Share of OTT Platforms in India

Voot | Digital Arm of Viacom 18 | Company Profile |
Company Profile is an initiative by StartupTalky to publish verified informationon different startups and organizations. The content in this post has beenapproved by the organization it is based on. Voot is a video-on-demand platform designed to watch TV shows and movies online.The companyโ€™s plaโ€ฆ

Content Classifications

The OTT platforms are required to differentiate all films, series, and other shows based on certain parameters.

First parameter

First Parameter would be the age of the viewers. The OTT platforms will have to classify their contents based on a different age. This is mainly to avoid children from watching A-rated films, series, or other shows.

This method is already part of the movies released in the theatres. An individual who is below the age of 18 will not be allowed to watch an A-rated movie in a theatre.

Second parameter

Second parameter would be according to the themes and messages. Again, it is a step by the government to ensure that the children are watching relevant content.

Third parameter

Third parameter would be to classify the OTT contents would include based on violence, nudity, sex, language, substance abuse, horror, content, tone, and impact the target audience

Fourth parameter

Fourth Parameter would be enabling of parental locks. Certain OTT platforms like Netflix already have parental lock enabling features. With the introduction of these new rules, it will be mandatory for all the OTT platforms to provide a parental lock for their contents. Parental locks are supposed to be activated for contents classified as U/A 13+ or above.


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Challenge Ahead for OTT Platforms

Dealing with complaints of the users will be a big challenge for the OTT platforms in India. India has a diverse culture and beliefs. A certain community would find an issue with a content while others would be fine with it. The demand will differ according to the communities.

It is not clear how OTT platforms are expected to practically address grievances from different users. While some content may be found offensive by a certain community, it would be popular among the other community.

FAQ

What is an OTT platform?

OTT (over-the-top) is a means of providing content over the internet at the request and to suit the requirements of the individual consumer.

How many OTT platforms are there in India?

There are currently over 40 providers of overโ€“theโ€“top media services (OTT) in India.

Is YouTube an OTT Platform?

Yes, YouTube comes under OTT Platform.

Conclusion

The oversight mechanism introduced by the government will increase the power of government in the overall operations of the OTT platforms in India. However, an institutional self-regulation mechanism will help the users to express their concerns. It will help them express it through a formal channel within certain time frames.

The fine print of the rules is yet to be made public. Some experts said that regulation of OTT is considered Unconstitutional. It is expected that Indiaโ€™s new rules on the OTT platforms will increase the content-related quarrels.

Until now the content on the OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, etc. was unregulated, it wouldnโ€™t be the same moving forward.

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