Key Words: India, Regulation, OTT Platforms, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Censorship, Censor Board
Hey Folks! Hope everyone is doing good! The Centre on Tuesday issued a government order to bring online news platforms and content providers under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B). It amended the (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961, to make the changes.
With this, over-the-top or OTT platforms such as Netflix, Hotstar and Amazon’s Prime Video are under the purview of the I&B Ministry. While film and TV certification bodies moderate public content in India, it did not allow censorship of content on the online streaming platforms. Currently, there is no law or autonomous committee governing digital content in the country.
Last month, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar had told The Indian Express that the government does not believe in censorship, but in self-regulation. He was speaking about the alleged rigging of television ratings by the news channel and other areas of programming.
“There have also been discussions about OTT platforms,” he told the newspaper. “I have called them [broadcasters and advertisers] twice to talk about a credible self-regulation method, but they have not come up with a proposal.”
So far, Covid-19 has swung things in favour of OTT platforms, especially as cinema halls were shut for the most part of this year. Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon Prime bagged rights to Bollywood film releases, unlike the pre-pandemic model where films would only reach OTT platforms after running in movie theatres for weeks.
Would this new notification disrupt that success? If it brings censorship in tow, it can.
Fear of Censorship in OTT Platforms
Content creators and websites are hopeful that the change will remain an administrative one. “We look forward to working with the ministry to implement our industry’s self-regulation efforts. As responsible content creators, we want to ensure this act not only takes cognisance of the nature of content being released, but also ensures that we safeguard creativity in this rapidly growing sector,” said Karan Bedi, CEO of homegrown OTT platform MX Player.
But censorship can often be a slippery slope, and India’s multi-hued OTT universe would do everything it can to avoid regulation or even being banned. “There is scope now for platforms to indulge in excessive ex ante censoring to escape penalties, use algorithmic tools that could potentially curb diversity, and affect the manner in which people interact with creative content,” The Dialogue’s Rizvi said. “This also creates roadblocks for small content creators, who relied on these platforms to exhibit their content.”
Take care, and I’ll talk to you guys soon!