OTT platforms to abide by three tier Grievance Redressal Mechanism

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeITY) has notified the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 for social media platforms, OTT players, & digital media. The rules will come in effect from the date of their publication in the gazette, except for additional due diligence for significant social media intermediaries, which shall come in effect three months after the publication of these rules. The online content space is likely to stay largely self-regulated, but with a three tier OTT grievance redressal mechanism.

Applicable entities

Surprisingly, the rules not only cover OTT sector, but also publishers of news and current affairs, intermediaries which enable transmission of news (news aggregators), and intermediaries which enable the transmission of online curated content. The Code of Ethics primarily focus on grievance redressal mechanisms. There shall be a three-level OTT grievance redressal mechanism.

The Self Regulating Mechanism at Level-I

The government will start a Grievance Control Portal through which public can raise complaints. The government keeps a copy of the complaint and forwards it to streaming services. The applicable entities are then required to process the complaint and have a decision within fifteen days uploaded on the government portal. In case the complainant is not satisfied, he can prefer an appeal, within 15 days of such decision, to the Oversight Mechanism.

Also, the applicable entity will have to appoint a Grievance Redressal Officer, based in India. The details of such grievance officer and the grievance mechanism shall be published at appropriate places on the website or interface. In case the grievance officer receives a complaint through any mechanism other than the government grievance portal, he shall register such grievance within 48 hours.

The grievance redressal officer shall also be the point of contact for interacting with the complainant, the self-regulating body and the Ministry.

The Self Regulating Mechanism at Level-II

The rules allow an association of applicable entities to have a self-regulatory body. A retired Supreme Court Justice shall head the self-regulatory Organisation, who a committee formed by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting would appoint. It will also have up to six other members, who are experts from the field of media, broadcasting, technology and entertainment.

This self-regulatory body would need to resolve disputes which the applicable entities failed to resolve within the stipulated 15-day period, or if complainant appeals against the decision. The body would also have the mandate to oversee adherence to the Code of Ethics and issue guidelines for necessary compliance. In case the body observes any need of action against a content for reasons enumerated under Section 69A of the IT Act, it can refer the issue to the Level III mechanism.

Oversight mechanism by the Government (Level III)

The government will publish a charter for self-regulating bodies and maintain the grievance portal. It will also create an inter-departmental committee to hear grievances that could not be resolved through Level I and II mechanisms. This committee can require content providers to reclassify their content’s age rating, edit the synopsis, or apologize.

Further, OTT platforms will have to self-classify their movies and content based on age. The content will have to be classified on age appropriateness. The publisher has to mandatorily display the classification rating specific to each program informing the user about the nature of the content at the beginning of every program so that user could make an informed decision prior to watching the program. The government wants the OTT intermediaries to classify films based on 13+, 16+ and those for adults. There also has to be a mechanism of parental lock and the intermediary would have to ensure compliance with the same.

For publishers of news on digital media, the new rules require them to observe Norms of Journalistic Conduct of the Press Council of India and the Program Code under the Cable Television Networks Regulation Act thereby providing a level playing field between the offline (Print, TV) and digital media. The rules allow three months’ time to the applicable entities, from the date of publication of rules, to reach relevant compliances.

You can read about other key takeaways from the new intermediary and digital media rules here.

You can read about the rules here.

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Pukhraj Biala

I am an undergraduate student at Symbiosis Law school, NOIDA, pursuing B.A.LL.B. I am a problem solver who believes in reaching to a conclusion by weighing all the options and identifying the best possible one. I find Technology Laws quite fascinating and I continue to follow and learn the subject.

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