OTT players claim voluntary compliance as TRAI petitioned on anti-tobacco norms breach

MUMBAI / NEW DELHI: Even though the Indian government has asked the broadcast carriage and telecoms regulator TRAI to rein in OTT platforms for alleged flouting of norms relating to tobacco and alcohol advisories in programmes, a majority of digital players claim to be voluntarily adhering to government directives meant primarily for TV shows despite absence of regulations for the sector.

"As we belong to the traditional medium of television, it comes from within to carry Indian government-advised disclaimer (relating to scenes in TV shows and films involving tobacco and alcohol consumption),” Alt Balaji CMO Manav Sethi told, adding, it is “not mandatory” for OTT platforms to do so, though.

According to Arre co-founder and CEO Ajay Chacko, "OTT platforms are regulated under the Information Technology Act, but carrying a disclaimer relating to tobacco and alcohol consumption in shows depends upon the online content creators. We certainly carry a disclaimer highlighting the negative effects of alcohol and tobacco on health in our shows as done in films."

In a controversial and much-debated move, which some critics dubbed as killing creative freedom, the ministry of health and family welfare, some years ago, had come out with a directive stating that all films and TV shows had to carry a disclaimer regarding the negative effects of tobacco and alcohol consumption during scenes where artistes were shown doing the same.

But why a hue and cry now relating to shows on OTT platforms?

The ministry of health, according to a report in Millennium Post yesterday, has written to TRAI to ensure that OTT players such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hotstar, Reliance Jio and Voot adhere to the ministry’s directive relating to anti-tobacco and alcohol norms. The ministry felt that OTT and digital platforms were not running health-related disclaimers as done by movies and traditional TV shows. 

But, why lobby with TRAI, which doesn’t regulate or govern content-related issues? In the opinion of the ministry of health, as enunciated by the newspaper report, internet-based services fell within the purview of the Telecoms Ministry and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the issue was flagged with TRAI since anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco agencies were finding it difficult to enforce the rule on errant OTT players.

Though a source in Voot said it voluntarily runs during shows a health warning ticker -- like "Smoking is injurious to health" -- as part of “best practices", the health ministry's letter to TRAI highlights the conundrum of content regulation relating to OTT platforms.

Indian films and TV programmes started carrying disclaimers on the negative effects of alcohol and tobacco consumption to adhere to the health ministry directive, indirectly enforced by the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB), but at present there are no regulations relating to OTT platforms in India.

TRAI has been debating the issue of OTT regulations, as part of net neutrality, with the stakeholders for over a year now but is still in the process of finalising its recommendations, which are expected to be unveiled some time soon.

However, it is pertinent to point out that TRAI’s jurisdiction doesn’t extend to content regulation and is limited to content distribution and distribution platforms. As there’s no official content regulator like the Ofcom or the FCC, Indian TV channels broadly follow industry-formulated self-regulation norms, guided by pointers enumerated in the Cable TV Networks Regulation Act that’s enforced by MIB.


TRAI's final recommendations on net neutrality likely by September

Net neutrality: TRAI recommendations likely to keep Indian context in mind

Surrogate liquor advertising: Time for change?

Latest Reads
Tata Sky vs. TRAI: Case, argued partly by DTH operator, adjourned to 23 January

DTH operator Tata Sky’s ongoing court battle with the TRAI and its new tariff regime, in which Bharti Telemedia-owned Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct are a part, has been adjourned by the Delhi High Court to January 23 with arguments being inconclusive.

Regulators TRAI
MIB restricts eligibility for temporary uplinking for non-news events

In a fresh notice, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has laid out a new norm for temporary uplinking applications for live coverage of non-news and current affairs TV channels. Now, only those channels and teleport operators that are already permitted by the MIB will be eligible to...

Regulators I&B Ministry
Prasar Bharati to TRAI: OTTs streaming live TV should mandatorily carry all Doordarshan channels

Public broadcaster Prasar Bharati has suggested to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that certain norms be made mandatory for OTT providers, in order to bring them on a level playing field with TV broadcasters and not just limit their comparison to telecom service providers (TSPs).

Regulators TRAI
SC upholds licence cancellation of Digi Cable Network, SCOD 18 Networking

Cancellation of licences granted to two MSOs Digi Cable Network and SCOD 18 Networking has been upheld by the Supreme Court on security ground. Before moving to apex court the petitioners had approached the Bombay High Court where their pleas challenging the cancellation order by Ministry of...

Regulators Supreme Court
Delhi HC orders Zee Hindustan to stop using Rajat Sharma's name in ads

Delhi HC has restrained Zee Hindustan from using the name of India TV editor-in-chief Rajat Sharma in any of its advertisements, stating that its latest ad campaign is prima facie illegal. It has directed the channel to remove any hoardings or ads that use Rajat’s name.

Regulators High Court
TRAI reminds consumers they can pick a-la-carte channels

In its latest missive the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has taken note that broadcasters are only advertising bouquets of their channels and not informing customers about a-la-carte options.

Regulators TRAI
TRAI tariff order: Topline projections for broadcasters, MSOs

In what is probably the acting collaboration of the year, Aamir Khan teamed up with Pankaj Tripathi for an infomercial for broadcasting behemoth Star. The 1 minute 22-second video, available both on TV and digital platforms, is an ad for Star’s new bouquet of channels, with the tagline“#Sachmein?”

Regulators TRAI
Tata Sky vs TRAI: Delhi High Court lists matter for 15 January, asks regulator to produce documents

Tata Sky got a breather from the Delhi High Court today as the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) assured that it will not take any coercive action against the direct to home (DTH) operator until 15 January, which is when the matter will be heard next.

Regulators TRAI
MIB hikes ad rates for print media by 25%

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has taken a decision to revise the advertisement rates for print media by announcing a hike of 25 per cent over and above the existing rate structure for advertisement in print media by the Bureau of Outreach and Communication (erstwhile DAVP). The...

Regulators I&B Ministry

Latest News

Load More

Sign up for our Newsletter

subscribe for latest stories