CEnsorship of OTT

Over-The-Top(OTT) platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5, DisneyPlusHotstar, AltBalaji, SonyLiv etc lately have been facing the ire from Indian Government and some Indian society regarding the censorship of their content. Only a strong internet connection and a compatible hardware part like phone, laptops, tablets, or smart T.V is needed to view the content. Ever since these OTT platforms have gained popularity regarding the content, content creators are worried if they will have a separate censor board or not. Due to the OTT platforms, the audience is able to witness a wide range of new stories & talented actors which was not possible when the movie was released in theatres. Another advantage of OTT platforms is that the audience can watch the movie or series whenever they want and not book a slot in theatres & purchase all kinds of junk food. It doesn’t have any regulatory body to control the streaming content and viewers are enjoying the freedom. One of the main reasons for censoring the content is to take care of the medium of films which should be sensitive to the values and standards of individuals living in a society. If censorship is allowed, the stream content will become more mediocre, sanitized and uninspiring. Some are of the view that due to OTT platforms, there is no censor, so the nudity, sexual intercourse, drugs, arms etc have gained upper hand in the content following unparliamentary words which may have bad effect on under-18. The IAMAI (India and mobile association of India), a body representing OTT, had put forth a model which is self-regulatory in nature. As on 7th September, 2020, these OTT platforms signed a self-regulation Code in India. It must be noted that content warning disclaimer is not censorship of content but a piece of information for the potential viewer about what they should expect from that movie or the series. Some of the series like sacred games, tandav etc had hurt the Hindu sentiments but favoured Muslims.

Under section 67 of the Information Technology Rules, 2021, the government came up with new rules and proper redressal mechanisms for both digital& non- digital media as well as OTT platforms. These rules will be really strict and proper actions are set to be taken against any content that is against state, infringes friendly relations with foreign nations and disturbs public order. Censorship is a complicated offer due to ever-changing ideals of acceptability. According to me, there should be a proper checking of the content before being released, times are changing, so everybody irrespective of the age group knows what kind of content are being shown in OTT platforms. Teenage that’s a young and growing age and will follow what it sees. Not everyone takes the content as per entertainment, some may take it personal or serious and start practicing the things which may not be good and even void. The Government’s new regulations for OTT players require them to remove any content flagged by authorities within 36 hours and setting up a complaint redressal mechanism with an officer being based in the country. In times of a global pandemic when all of us are going through some form of health and emotional stress, limiting entertainment options does not seem to be the best choice for dealing with the freedoms of individuals.

If I were to give suggestions, I would recommend that fictional or altered names be used by the producers of such content. This reduces the association with reality and helps in establishing the fact that the story so told is fiction and will have a lesser effect in influencing the younger generation to carry out malicious acts. It can also help them evade liability as opposed to actually mentioning real life places, people and events[1]. And finally I am of the opinion that the censor boards needs to lay down proper, codified and strict rules regarding some content that may spread hatred, incite rage and affect the fundamental rights entitled to the people. A proper framework works as a system check where in only if all the boxes are ticked, only then the content will be allowed to air[2].

[1] Abhishek Shiva-CENSORSHIP OF OTT CONTENT, Censorship of OTT Content – Aishwarya Sandeep, visited on 19-08-2021 at 21:11hrs.

[2] Ibid.

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