'Code of ethics' to be applicable for news publishers, OTT players, digital media: Govt

Photo: @PrakashJavdekar/Twitter

The government on Thursday said a ‘code of ethics’ and three-tier grievance redressal mechanism would be applicable for news publishers, over-the-top (OTT) platforms and digital media.

Seeking to establish a soft touch regulatory framework for these entities, the government said OTT platforms (like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video) would have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories – U (Universal), U/A 7+ (years), U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).

Briefing reporters, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said such 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 publishers of online curated content will also have to 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, he added. This would help viewers assess the nature of content at the beginning of every programme, and make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme.

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, providing a level-playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media, an official statement said.

A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under the rules with different levels of self-regulation, wherein level-1 would be self-regulation by the publishers; level-2 self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers; and level-3 would be oversight mechanism.

The rules state a publisher will have to appoint a grievance redressal officer, based in India, who will be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by it. The officer will take decision on every grievance received by it within 15 days.

The rules also note that there may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of publishers.

Such a body will be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court, a High Court or independent eminent person, and will not have 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, the statement said.

In addition, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall formulate an oversight mechanism and will publish a charter for self-regulating bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental Committee for hearing grievances.