Netflix, Hotstar and Sony Picture Networks are among at least nine over-the-top (OTT) service providers who have signed an agreement to self-regulate streamed content in India.

The initiative, which is supported by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), provides best practice for OTT content providers in the country, although Business Standard reported that it has come in for criticism from some anti-censorship advocacy groups.

Amazon Prime Video, Facebook and Google are notable for their absence from the voluntary code of practice, but it is significant that market leader Hotstar is involved along with Netflix, which has grown its share of the Indian OTT market to at least 6.3%.

The other OTT companies who have agreed to take part in the new “Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers” include ALT Balaji, Arre, Eros Now, Jio Digital Life, Viacom18 and Zee5.

Under the terms of the agreement, the streaming companies will not release content that disrespects the national flag, offends religious sentiment, promotes or encourages terrorism or shows children engaged in real or simulated sexual acts.

The code also prohibits content that contains officially banned material and requires OTT companies to categorise content for general or universal viewing, viewing under parental guidance and to flag content considered inappropriate for minors.

It further requires the companies to acknowledge receipt of a complaint within three working days and to reply to the complainant within ten working days.

However, content regulation can be a touchy issue in India and some observers and advocacy groups have warned of the risks of online censorship.

“We reasonably apprehend that a model of television censorship is being incorrectly imported to the online video streaming space, which will increase censorship, impact innovation, and fulfil no clear policy goals,” said the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) in a statement.

“To have such a measure discussed privately among a handful of existing video players and then seek endorsement from government ministries is incredibly troubling,” it added.

Sourced from Business Standard; additional content by WARC staff