New guidelines make manner for self-regulation: I&B ministry secretary
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Secretary Amit Khare said Saturday that the country had gone from censorship to self-regulation for the first time, despite critics having labeled the government “authoritarian” with new online media guidelines.
“There will be no authoritarian process,” Khare told the Hindustan Times. “The regulatory system is accountable to the courts. Any power abuse can be checked. “
The government announced the new rules for over-the-top platforms (OTT) such as Netflix and Hotstar, social media intermediaries such as Facebook and Twitter, and digital news media on Thursday. The guidelines prescribe a three-tier system of self-regulation with an authorized official from the I&B Department at the helm. The officer can review non-compliance and even issue acceptance orders under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, which previously only applied to social media intermediaries and government agencies.
Khare said the rules represented a paradigm shift in politics. “As of now, every film that goes to the theater must be approved by the certification committee, but there is no such requirement for these OTT platforms,” he said. “The government has left the decision to them. You can decide which labels to use. The idea is that the viewer should know what he is about to see. “
He stressed that the government would not change the available content in any way. “Films only have three categories, while we have five for OTT platforms. The government is ready to consider a similar classification for films released in theaters, ”said Khare.
According to the official, the very concept of censorship has changed worldwide. “The government doesn’t want to interfere, we just want to make sure people don’t feel uncomfortable about accessing online media,” he said.
Khare also highlighted how OTT platforms have democratized entertainment. “These rules were discussed for over a year and a half. We also made a conscious decision not to have a web portal where complaints could be submitted, as we wanted to make sure that people did not believe that the government was intervening unnecessarily, ”he said. “People can complain directly to the platform, and if the complaint is not resolved by their standards, it can be referred to the ministry.”
He added that this also provides protection for such OTT platforms as there is an option for civil regulation rather than having to deal with FIRs and legal proceedings.
OTT platforms like Amazon Prime have come under fire for broadcasting content that some said offended religious sentiments and a number of lawsuits have been registered. “This is an alternative remedy that must be exhausted before being challenged in court,” said Khare.