Is OTT regulation required?

India is likely to become the sixth-largest OTT market in the world by the year 2024. Earlier Over the Top (OTT) platforms were under the shadow of movie theatres and cineplexes, with only a few films being exclusively released on these OTT platforms. Most films were only made for the movie theatres and later released on these platforms. However, the widespread closure of movie theatres and cineplexes during the pandemic gave more importance to these OTT platforms for their unreleased titles and now they have become an indispensable part of the everyday routine.

Despite the positive outlook for the OTT industry, several questions have been imposed pertaining to OTT censorship. Previously these OTT platforms enjoyed complete artistic freedom when it came to releasing content. However, the uncensored content was quite controversial which attracted light towards the censorship of these platforms.

A large percentage of people enjoy all kinds of content. However, some content has been hurting religious and political sentiments of the people causing a huge uproar in the public and therefore the government felt the urge to bring in some changes and remove the not so suitable clips from movies and OTT. One of the major reasons for censoring the content is to make the content makers responsible and sensitive to the values and standards of people living in the society.

Earlier these OTT platforms fell under the ambit of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology but there has been a recent development and now they are under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The government recently announced new guidelines to regulate OTT content.

But the regulation of these ministries should be in a more balanced approach to monitor the content. Initially, it would be better to allow the OTT Platforms to regulate themselves and follow a self-regulatory code of ethics, however, if it does not prove to be of any use then the regulatory body shall intervene. This would be beneficial for these platforms as they would get the opportunity to self-regulate themselves. A viable self-governance model will be helpful to preserve the freedom of speech and expression and the Artistic Liberties of the OTT Platforms would not be curtailed.

Looking at the current scenario, the need for an unbiased and empathetic regulatory body is a must. Digital Content Streaming cannot be completely controlled by a self-regulatory body. The body should differentiate responsible content for regulation. Both the Government and the OTT platforms shall work together on this and put an end to this issue. The elementary purpose behind the law shall be clear to protect the interest of the audience and bridge the regulatory gap. Complete censorship of these platforms will convert it into nothing more than a television show or mainstream cinema.

Today’s youth is looking for content that brings out the reality of our society, deals with controversial or unspoken issues, provides us with a range of variety, and most importantly does not hurt the sentiments of the people. Hence, these regulatory gaps are distressing. 

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