Earlier this month, the previously self-regulated Indian streaming sector was brought under the purview of the country’s Information and Broadcasting Ministry. That quickly set off a storm of discussion around possible government censorship.
The Ministry has said nothing on the subject so far. But content regulation was a hotly debated topic at a panel on Wednesday, as part of the day-long ‘Fast Track Digital’ conference organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry.
In September, the country’s leading streamers, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus Hotstar, Zee5, Viacom18’s Voot, ALTBalaji, MX Player and Arré, signed the ‘Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs (Online Curated Content Providers),’ created by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI).
“In the context of regulation, India has always, actually had too many wheels within wheels,” said panelist Ajay Chacko, CEO of Arré. Chacko added that for a country the size of India, with a population of 1.3 billion, the number of complaints to OCCPs about content are relatively low, and many of them are frivolous.
Panelist Tarun Katial, outgoing CEO of Zee5 and Chair of the IAMAI’s digital entertainment committee, confirmed that the ministry hasn’t said anything about regulation. He said that the ministry has been encouraging the streamers to self-regulate, and has been supportive of content diversity.
“Unlike other places, there has been no show that the government has ever come and said (something) should be pulled out, unless it was issues of pornography,” Katial said. “So I think we have to see the government in the light of the support that it has given to this sector, and (how far it) has let it flourish to this point.”
Panelist Gourav Rakshit, chief operating officer of Viacom18’s streamer Voot, and vice-chair of IAMAI, said that India already has robust laws that protect against inflammatory content. “What’s different in our industry, and that goes to the technology as well as what we offer, is the ability for being able to narrow-cast to an audience, also allows us to provide age-gating capability,” said Rakshit.
Panelist Karan Bedi, CEO of MX Player, noted the efforts being made by various industry bodies, including the IAMAI towards self-regulation. He said that it was only a matter of time before a set of standards acceptable to all is arrived at.
Meanwhile, the government has given some feedback on the self-regulation code to the IAMAI. Katial said that the organization is now incorporating those suggestions.
“This is the law of attraction. If you keep on saying that the government is going to regulate, the government will regulate one day,” said Katial. “I don’t think the government is wanting regulation. Why do we all keep saying the government is going to regulate? It doesn’t want to regulate, it is not possible for anybody to regulate the millions of hours of content.”