Over the top (OTT)media service is a streaming media service offered directly to the viewers through the internet. There are large numbers of OTT platforms in India like Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hotstar, Voot etc. For contents provided by cinema or television we have certain regulatory bodies like CBFC, BCCC etc, but there are no such regulatory bodies meant for these OTT platforms to control the content streamed through them. Hence, they are enjoying their privilege.
Taking advantage of all such privileges the content provided by these platforms are unlawful and still under Supreme Court’s monitoring. Numerous times it can be seen that this platform’s show tried to create chaos either by showcasing offensive scenes or by hurting sentiments of a particular religion by making fun of it. Whether it shall be under a self-regulatory body or there shall be a regulatory body required to censor the content streaming on OTT platforms? This is the question that rises here.
Government considers these platforms as mediators that’s why they cannot apply dominion on them. Though there are some rules for intermediaries as in rule 3(2) of Information Technology it is mentioned that due diligence shall be observed by intermediaries in displaying, hosting, publishing obscene, pornographic, or unlawful content and shall not harm minors. In 2016 Justice for Right an NGO filed a petition before Delhi High Court regarding Hotstar producing unethical, soft pornographic, vulgar content promoting vulgarity among minors. They urged the platform should be censored and removal of unrestricted scenes. The petition however was dismissed and right now waiting in Supreme Court. On February 5,2020 Digital Curated Content Complaint Council an adjudicator body was formed by Hotstar, SonyLIV, Jio and Eros to verify the content provided by these platforms, but most of the OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix denied being a part of this and decided to remain a self-regulatory body.
- The various times when necessity of censorship is required are when inadequate content tries to spread hate and vulgarity among viewers. Recent issues around OTT’s are the John Oliver show on Hotstar where he actively criticized Narendra Modi and CAA and then the show was blocked on Hotstar. Similar thing was seen in Hasan Minhaz’s show where he criticized Lok Sabha elections of 2019 and was badly trolled.
- On Netflix shows such as Sacred Games was trolled as it showcased some conjectural statements of Rajiv Gandhi and Bofors scam was also mentioned. Leila was a show criticized by its viewers for spreading Hindu phobia. Recently a show named A Suitable Boy faced lots of criticism due one of its offensive scenes spreading vulgarity. However, Netflix didn’t take any action.
- Amazon Prime also faced these criticisms numerous times and deleted the entire episode of CBS political drama “Madam Secretaries” its Indian Version as it was said to Hindu sentiments, India occupied Kashmir, violence on Muslims by majority etc. Recently a show named “Tandav” was in the limelight and faced huge anger and criticism of people due to its scene of making jokes of Hindu God, Supporting Anti CAA hooliganism.
Numerous FIRs are registered against star cast of the show in different parts of the country.
Considering the ongoing scenarios there is an urgent need for an unbiased regulatory body because these kinds of offensive streaming cannot be controlled by a self-regulatory body. This body shall distinguish content responsible and irresponsible content for further regulation. Government and these OTT platforms should work together and sort out this problem once and for all. The Intermediary Rules,2011 should also be kept in mind while producing shows on OTT platforms otherwise it shall lead to cancellation of their license.
Viewers and public today are interested in watching content that puts out social issues, truth and genuine problems of society, socio political issues, that teaches us about regional variety and most importantly doesn’t hurt sentiments of a particular religion or class. Hence censorship and regulation for OTT platforms are the need of the hour.