New Delhi: Health disclaimer should be mandatory for OTT platforms when depicting tobacco products or their use, says the health ministry in a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
In the letter, accessed by News18, Arti Ahuja, Additional Secretary- Department of Health, states that all OTT platforms with content displaying tobacco products or their use should show anti-tobacco health spots of minimum 30 seconds and also an audio-visual disclaimer of a minimum 20 seconds on the same.
"While these rules are fairly well implemented in films screened in theatres, it is observed that the films and TV programs that are shown/streamed in OTT services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Hotstar, Netflix do not follow the provisions of the extant rules," Ahuja said, also citing WHO's study, titled 'Tobacco imagery in on-demand streaming content popular among adolescents and young adults in India.'
Experts say that these rules must come into effect immediately. “The streaming media has become a haven for promotion of tobacco use and this extensive promotion is to undermine Government film rules and provisions to discourage tobacco use. We urged the Government to take necessary action to ensure these online streaming platforms are compliant with COTPA, relevant rules, and any other applicable laws in order to protect the children from exposure to tobacco products display on the OTT platforms," says Bhavna Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.
This comes amid the government's decision to bring OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar besides other online news and current affairs content under the ambit of the I&B Ministry, giving it powers to regulate policies and rules for the digital space. So far, there was no law or autonomous body governing digital content in India.
According to a notification issued by the Cabinet Secretariat on Tuesday night and signed by President Ram Nath Kovind, the decision has been taken in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (3) of article 77 of the Constitution, by amending the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 and it will come into effect immediately.
The decision came in less than a month after the Supreme Court sought the Centre's response on a PIL for regulating the Over The Top (OTT) platforms by an autonomous body.