Entertainment News | The code of ethics brought discipline to the OTT sector: I&B Joint Secy

Dubai, Mar 20 (PTI) The code of ethics for news publishers, OTT (over-the-top) platforms and digital media has helped bring “a lot of discipline” to the sector, said Vikram, co- Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Sahay said on Sunday.

The co-secretary was speaking at a panel discussion on information dissemination at the India Pavilion during EXPO2020 Dubai here.

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In India, no permission is required to launch an OTT platform, Sahay said.

“There are around 40-50 OTT platforms in India, none of them need to register or seek prior permission. All of them have evolved in their own way based on their business models and projects .

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“Not only international platforms like Netflix and Amazon, but also many national OTT channels have appeared, including those in regional languages. We only have a code of ethics that we developed a year ago to content,” he added.

Last year, the Indian government said a three-tier code of ethics and grievance redress mechanism would apply to news publishers, OTT platforms and digital media.

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

These platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content rated as U/A 13+ or higher and reliable age verification mechanisms for content rated as “A”.

There’s been a lot of shouting in the country from people and the entertainment industry, Sahay said, adding, “We can’t have such a powerful and ubiquitous medium as OTT and not have any content discipline.

“And the code has brought a lot of self-discipline to the whole OTT industry. Overall, they’ve been very happy with it,” he said.

Many countries are trying to understand India’s regulatory framework so that they can create their own code for the sector, the joint secretary pointed out.

“Last year in February, we introduced the rules for digital news publishing and OTT content. In November, Bangladesh released its draft OTT regulations, which were 98% consistent with what was Indian code. So they have the same system. It’s something other countries would like to emulate, so it’s a good thing that way.”

The I&B ministry also had a meeting with representatives from Vietnam, he said.

“They are also trying to find solutions to OTT content. We have shared the whole system we have with them,” Sahay added.

The co-secretary said there was a “mistaken” understanding that if any information was to be delivered on an OTT platform, the OTT somehow became responsible for that content.

“The digital publisher is already responsible for the content. You can’t make another person responsible for it… This has never been the case, neither stated nor implied. The information is free to be there on OTT platforms “, he added.

Underlining the importance of Doordarshan, India’s national broadcaster, Mayank Kumar Agarwal, Managing Director of Doordarshan, said the TV station stood as a beacon of “credible and authentic” news, especially when the COVID-19 pandemic has erupted in early 2020.

Sanjay Salil from MediaGuru shared some interesting stories about the news industry.

An end-to-end media services company, MediaGuru has established over 100 TV channels, radio stations and pay-TV networks around the world.

Recounting the beginnings of MediaGuru, the founder said his friend and CNN presenter Anita McNaught was surprised when he announced that they were setting up Bangladesh’s first news channel on a budget of 6-7 millions of dollars.

“She flew from London to Dhaka to see what you can do with $6-7m to start a TV channel and that includes running costs. She also posted on CNN about it “, he recalls.

Citing the example of channels such as China Global Television Network (CGTN) and China Central Television (CCTV), Salil said that China is investing heavily in Africa in the field of information.

“You go to any country and any hotel in Africa, you might not find CNN, BBC or Al Jazeera, but you will find CGTN and CCTV, if there is a Chinese population.

“This is the kind of distribution they have invested in and not only. CGTN has set up studios in Kenya and other African countries. Star Times, supported by the Chinese government, is present in all African countries”, did he declare.

Sanjay Kaushik, Managing Director of Netrika, spoke about the issues plaguing the digital space – piracy and fake news.

Netrika is a professional risk and integrity management firm that operates in emerging and frontier markets to advise clients on operational or business risks.

“The fight against piracy is everyone’s responsibility…Fake news is another big area where you can just put anything on the internet or on the platform without even checking its credibility. Social media platforms are a You have to comply with what the government fact checks are important because someone has to be responsible for what they post or broadcast,” Kaushik said.

Anubhav Nath, chief revenue officer, PTC Network; S Divaakar, Business Leader, News First Kannada; Ravi Chitturi, Head of Media, Dabur International Ltd, and Sakti Prakash Bide, Founder, Founding Director, Times Gulf also participated in the discussion.

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