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Govt announces new code of ethics for social media channels and OTT platforms

Digital Media Ethics Code Relating to Digital Media and OTT Platforms to Be
Administered by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting:

There have been widespread concerns about issues relating to digital contents
both on digital media and OTT platforms. Civil Society, film makers, political leaders
including Chief Minister, trade organizations and associations have all voiced their
concerns and highlighted the imperative need for an appropriate institutional
mechanism. The Government also received many complaints from civil society and
parents requesting interventions. There were many court proceedings in the Supreme
Court and High Courts, where courts also urged the Government to take suitable
measures.
Since the matter relates to digital platforms, therefore, a conscious decision
was taken that issues relating to digital media and OTT and other creative
programmes on Internet shall be administered by the Ministry of Information and
Broadcasting but the overall architecture shall be under the Information Technology
Act, which governs digital platforms.
Consultations:
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting held consultations in Delhi, Mumbai
and Chennai over the last one and half years wherein OTT players have been urged
to develop “self-regulatory mechanism”. The Government also studied the models in

other countries including Singapore, Australia, EU and UK and has gathered that
most of them either have an institutional mechanism to regulate digital content or are
in the process of setting-up one.
The Rules establish a soft-touch self-regulatory architecture and a Code
of Ethics and three tier grievance redressal mechanism for news publishers and
OTT Platforms and digital media.
Notified under section 87 of Information Technology Act, these Rules empower
the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to implement Part-III of the Rules which
prescribe the following:
• Code of Ethics for online news, OTT platforms and digital media: This
Code of Ethics prescribe the guidelines to be followed by OTT platforms and
online news and digital media entities.
• Self-Classification of Content: The OTT platforms, called as the publishers
of online curated content in the rules, would self-classify the content into five
age based categories- U (Universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
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 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.
• 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 thereby
providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital
media.
• A three-level grievance redressal mechanism has been established under
the rules with different levels of self-regulation.
o Level-I: Self-regulation by the publishers;
o Level-II: Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers;
o Level-III: Oversight mechanism.

• Self-regulation by the Publisher: Publisher shall appoint a Grievance
Redressal Officer based in India who shall be responsible for the redressal of
grievances received by it. The officer shall take decision on every grievance
received by it within 15 days.
• Self-Regulatory Body: There may be one or more self-regulatory bodies of
publishers. Such a body shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme
Court, a High Court or independent eminent person and have not 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.
• Oversight Mechanism: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting shall
formulate an oversight mechanism. It shall publish a charter for self-regulating
bodies, including Codes of Practices. It shall establish an Inter-Departmental
Committee for hearing grievances.

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