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OTT: Better fall in line or fall by the wayside

I have moved a petition before Supreme Court to have the OTT platforms and its contents regulated by an autonomous body. I have moved this petition along with Advocate Apurv Arhatia because we believe that these OTT Platforms in the name of creativity and freedom are actually abusing fundamental rights of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of Indian Constitution. These OTT Platforms if remain unchecked and unregulated will destroy the social, cultural and secular fabric of this nation. These OTT Platforms are provoking the sentiments of common people in such a way that if remain unchecked for long will destroy the unity and integrity of this country. Through this Petition, we seek court’s interference and direction to the Government to establishment a proper board/ institution/ association for the monitoring and management of content on different OTT/Streaming and digital media platform. Currently these OTT platform shows contents full of Nudity, crime and abuse. These platforms have introduced the contents involving drinking & smoking scenes without any caution remarks. With crowds staying away from cinemas theatres for long due to ongoing pandemic, OTT/Streaming and different digital media platforms have surely given a way out for filmmakers and artists to release their content without being worried about getting clearance certificates for their films and series from the censor board. These OTT Platforms are showing explicit scenes including adultery, incest, pornography, child-porn and rape scenes to everyone without any moderation or alteration for the common people.

Our petition emphasizes on the requirement of a board/association/institution for monitoring, management and regularizing of OTT/Streaming and digital media platform across India and of absence of any law or autonomous body governing the digital content have made these digital contents available to the public at large without any filter or screening. It is so important due to the fact that most of the contents available on these platforms are communal, castist or Hinduphobic which is creating a great divide in the society at large. These shows are no more choice but became a compulsion to the common population due to their east accessibility. A diverse and democratic society like India can not allow these OTT platforms to earn money by provoking the sentiments of common people by dividing the society on the basis of religion, caste, gender, region etc in the name of art so to earn money as they’re capable enough to cause irreparable damage to the society.

The Government of India and especially Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was supposed to issue a negative list – a list of some non-negotiable prohibited content to OTT/Streaming service providers by the end of 2019.  They had also urged the OTT/Streaming Platforms to come up with a self-regulatory body and have given a reasonable window of 100 (hundred) days to come up with a mechanism to deal with the adult and political content posted on various OTT/Streaming platform.

Few of these OTT platforms have signed a Self-regulatory code, however it is not at all sufficient due to the fact that they are not answerable to government. Also the objectionable contents are still available and keep getting posted on a regular level which at times portray India, Indian leaders and Indian Institutions in a bad light. Lack of legislation governing OTT/Streaming Platforms is becoming evident with each passing day and every new case that is filed on these grounds. The Government is facing heat to fill this lacuna with regulations from the public and the Judiciary however it is still pending.

It is evident that content regulation/monitoring is the need of the hour and these unregulated portals are putting everything without any moderation and common people in India without are watching the same at their houses which could ultimately lead to various problems in coming future.

Hon’ble Supreme Court while accepting the case has issued notice to the Government asking their response. These OTT Platforms now will have to understand that we won’t let them go unchecked. They’ll have to fall in line or will have to fall by the wayside. If countries like Singapore, the UK, Australia & Indonesia could regulate the contents available on OTT platforms in their countries, why shouldn’t India?

 

Author: Adv. Shashank Shekhar Jha
Legal Editor, GoaChronicle.com

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