OTT platforms will soon be required to display anti-tobacco warnings -Dlight News

Anti-Tobacco Warnings for OTT Programmes Soon, Health Ministry to Amend Relevant Rules

OTT platforms could soon be required to display anti-tobacco warnings and disclaimers like those seen in movies and TV shows, with the Health Ministry likely to change relevant rules, official sources said on Thursday. The ministry is actively considering an amendment to the 2004 Regulations on Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Advertising Ban and Regulation of Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) and a notice on this is likely to be issued soon, it said.

According to the draft notification, publishers of curated online content depicting tobacco products or their use must include anti-tobacco health ads for at least 30 seconds at the beginning and middle of the broadcast, an official source told PTI. They must also display an anti-tobacco health warning as a conspicuous static message at the bottom of the screen whenever tobacco products or their use are shown during the broadcast.

Also, a minimum 20-second audiovisual disclaimer on the harmful effects of tobacco use should be displayed at the beginning and middle of the broadcast, the source said.

“The anti-tobacco health warning message must be: ‘tobacco causes cancer’ or ‘tobacco kills’. In addition, the health-related anti-tobacco warning messages, health warnings and audiovisual disclaimers must be in the same language as the content curated online.” According to officials, tobacco product use and smoking are featured extensively in web series and films broadcast on OTT platforms are streamed without any disclaimer whatsoever, in clear violation of the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act 2003.

“Due to their huge popularity, the OTT platforms play a crucial role in promoting tobacco use among children and youth in our country,” said an official.

Ranjit Singh, an attorney at the Supreme Court, said changing the rules would truly make India the world champion in regulating tobacco advertising through entertainment media.

“The morbidity and mortality associated with tobacco use are well established. The government enacted COTPA to eliminate tobacco use by eliminating all direct and indirect tobacco advertising.”

“The tobacco industry aims to get youth interested in tobacco… The ban on tobacco advertising under COTPA led to a spate of incidents of tobacco being promoted through entertainment media,” Singh said. Binoy Mathew, program manager at the Voluntary Health Association of India, said streaming services had grown enormously in popularity, particularly during the Covid pandemic and among teenagers.

“Teenagers in school uniforms were often shown smoking tobacco. There were also scenes in which tobacco control laws and their intentions were ridiculed. The draft notification, once issued, will end brazen tobacco advertising on OTT platforms,” Mathew said.

India will become the world leader in tobacco regulation through the implementation of the OTT regulation. India can set an example to the world, he said.

Under the proposed rule changes, the presentation of tobacco products or their use in curated online content will not be extended to the presentation of brands of cigarettes or other tobacco products.

If the publishers do not comply with the regulations, an inter-ministerial committee consisting of representatives from the ministries of health, information and broadcasting and electronics and information technology will send them a notification and give them a reasonable opportunity to explain the violation and make appropriate changes to the content , said another source.

“Per the Daft announcement, ‘curated online content’ means any curated catalog of audiovisual content, excluding news and current affairs, that is owned, licensed, or commissioned by a publisher of curated online content to transmit to Retrieval available over the Internet or computer networks. “This includes films, audiovisual programs, documentaries, television programs, series, series, podcasts and other such content,” the source added.

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