The Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B Ministry) has asked publishers of online curated content, commonly known as OTT platforms, to ensure display of age-based classification rating in the advertisements and other promotional material published by them on various media platforms.
The Code of Ethics for online curated content under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, provides for classification of content into age-based categories, as well as inclusion of the classification rating and consumer advice in any print, television, or online promotional or publicity material for their programmes, said the Ministry in its advisory.
The code lays down details of the classification. It states that all content transmitted or published or exhibited by a publisher of online curated content must be classified, based on the nature and type of content, into five rating categories.
They include “U” rating for content suitable for children as well as people of all ages, “U/A 7+” for content suitable for persons aged seven years and above and which can be viewed by a person under the age of 7 years with parental guidance, as well as categories such as “U/A 13+”, “U/16+”, and “A”.
As per the Code, the content may be classified on the basis of “themes and messages”, “violence”, “nudity”, “sex”, “language”, “drug and substance abuse” and “horror” as described in its Schedule, which may be modified from time to time.
Those making available content that is classified as “U/A 13+” or higher have to ensure that access-control mechanisms, including parental locks, are made available for such content.
“A publisher... which makes available content or programme that is classified as ‘A’ shall implement a reliable age verification mechanism for viewership of such content. A publisher... must strive to include classification rating and consumer advice for their programmes in any print, televised or online promotional or publicity material and prominently display the classification rating specific to each such content,” adds the Code.
“Every publisher of online curated content providing access to online curated content which has an ‘A’ rating shall take all efforts to restrict access to such content by a child through the implementation of appropriate access-control measures,” it says.
The Code also prescribes a detailed guideline for the classification of films and other entertainment programmes, including web-based serials.
The publishers have to prominently display the classification rating specific to each content or programme together with a content descriptor informing the user about the nature of the content, and advising viewer discretion (if applicable) at the beginning of every programme enabling the user to make an informed decision, prior to watching the programme, it said.