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Netflix, Hotstar, Prime Video to Get Tobacco Headache; Govt Issues Strict New Mandate

On World No Tobacco Day, the Union health ministry has taken a significant step towards curbing tobacco consumption by notifying amended rules under the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act, 2004. These rules now make it mandatory for Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms to display anti-tobacco warnings, similar to those seen in movies screened in theatres and TV programs.

As per the new notification, publishers of online curated content that showcases tobacco products or their use will be required to incorporate anti-tobacco health spots, each lasting a minimum of 30 seconds, at the beginning and middle of their programs. Additionally, they must display a prominent static message at the bottom of the screen, serving as an anti-tobacco health warning whenever tobacco products or their use are shown during the program.

Furthermore, the notification mandates the display of an audio-visual disclaimer lasting at least 20 seconds at the beginning and middle of the program, educating viewers about the ill effects of tobacco use.

The notification emphasizes that the anti-tobacco health warning message specified in clause (b) of sub-rule (1) should be legible and readable, using a black font on a white background and featuring the warnings “Tobacco causes cancer” or “Tobacco kills.”

In addition to adhering to the prescribed guidelines, the anti-tobacco health warning messages, health spots, and audio-visual disclaimers must be presented in the same language as used in the online curated content.

It’s important to note that the display of tobacco products or their use in online curated content should not extend to showcasing specific cigarette brands or engaging in any form of tobacco product placement. Likewise, the promotion of tobacco products or their use in promotional materials is also prohibited.

According to a senior ministry official, this decision was made after extensive discussions with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and other stakeholders to ensure comprehensive compliance.

The notification outlines the consequences for publishers of online curated content who fail to comply with the provisions specified in sub-rules (1) to (5). In such cases, an inter-ministerial committee comprising representatives from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology will take action suo motu or based on a complaint. The committee will identify the non-compliant publisher of online curated content, issue a notice, and provide a reasonable opportunity to explain the failure and make appropriate modifications to the content.

For the purpose of these rules, “online curated content” refers to any curated catalogue of audio-visual content, excluding news and current affairs, owned by, licensed to, or contracted to be transmitted by a publisher of online curated content. This content is made available on demand, including but not limited to subscription-based services, over the internet or computer networks. It encompasses films, audio-visual programs, television programs, serials, series, and other similar content.

Source : Business Today