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  • Smita Reddy & Tara Sehgal

Regularization of OTT Content



Have you ever noticed that, in contrast to films, content on OTT platforms lacks a warning about the negative effects of smoking and using tobacco?


The same will change as a result of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Amendment Rules, 2023 ("COTPA Rules"), which were announced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on "World No-Tobacco Day" (May 31, 2023). It is a significant step to regulate the display and use of cigarette and tobacco products on OTT video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney. Beginning 3 months from the date of its publication in the official Gazette, the COTPA Rules will be in force.


The COTPA Rules stipulate the following –


1. Every publisher of online curated content[1] to include (a) anti-tobacco health messages of at least 30 seconds each at the beginning and middle of the programme; (b) a prominent static message with an anti-tobacco health warning at the bottom of the screen whenever tobacco products are displayed or used in the programme; and (c) audio-visual disclaimers on the negative effects of tobacco use of at least 20 seconds each in the beginning and middle of the programme.


2. The publisher shall have access to the health spots, message, and disclaimer on the "mohfw.gov.in" or "ntcp.mohfw.gov.in" website.


3. These anti-tobacco health warning messages should be readable and legible with cautions like "Tobacco kills" or "Tobacco causes cancer" in the same language as the online curated content[2]. They should also be in black text on a white background.


4. It is forbidden to display tobacco products or their use in promotional materials, the names of cigarettes or other tobacco products, or any form of tobacco product placement.


An inter-ministerial committee made up of representatives from the Ministries of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Information and Broadcasting (MIB), and Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) will act either on its own initiative or in response to a complaint if a publisher violates the COTPA Rules.


The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and the Indian Freedom Foundation (IFF) have expressed serious concerns regarding the implementation of these new regulations, which are anticipated to provide some practical challenges to the OTT platforms. That said, given an OTT’s reach and audience, this could be a step toward audiovisual ensuring a tobacco-free India.

[1] a publisher who, performing a significant role in determining the online curated content being made available, makes available to users a computer resource that enables such users to access online curated content over the internet or computer networks, and such other entity called by whatever name, which is functionally similar to publishers of online curated content but does not include any individual or user who is not transmitting online curated content in the course of systematic business, professional or commercial activity. [2] any curated catalogue of audio-visual content, other than news and current affairs content, which is owned by, licensed to, or contracted to be transmitted by a publisher of online curated content, and made available on demand, including but not limited to subscription, over the internet or computer networks, and includes films, audiovisual programmes, documentaries, television programmes, serials, series, podcasts, and other such content.

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