CENSORSHIP OF OTT PLATFORM- A NECESSITY?

OTT Platforms have witnessed shocking growth all over India as well as various other sections of the globe recently. According to reports, this video streaming service would rise to a gain of Rs, 4000 crores by the end of the year 2025. And as of month July 2020, India had approximately 29 crores of these online Platform users. But what are these online OTT platforms?[1]

We have reached that point of time where people barely say that they are into Television or movie theatres. Everyone is so busy with various online platforms that elapsed are those days when Television or film theatres were the only medium to consume video content. India in particular has witnessed a massive growth in the absorption of video content on enormous online platforms in the last few years. And come to think of the significant reason behind this immense change- deeper internet penetration due to net neutrality movement because of which the internet became very cheap and ever-increasing smart phone usage, ultimately leading to rise in various online Platforms known as OTT platforms also known as the Over the Top Platforms.

WHAT ARE OTT PLATFORMS?    

Nowadays one doesn’t always require a cable to be connected to get entertained via videos, one can enjoy video content everywhere just with the help of the Internet. OTT platforms help us avail of this facility. OTT represents “Over the Top”, which refers to any media resource that gives streaming of video matters like Television shows and flicks or online news via app or web site over the net rather than ancient distribution networks like cable and DTH (direct-to-home).

These OTTs or Over the Top Platforms, at first started as the content hosting platforms, however shortly divided into creating originals of their own. (Say as when we binge on Netflix we usually come across various series or movies that says ‘Netflix Originals’) All one wants is an internet source and a compatible hardware part, which may be a portable phone, laptops, tablets, or sensible Television, to observe the content. One can stream these contents any time with the help of these platforms rather than sitting with a guide and expecting their favorite shows and films to air.[2] This can be among the various reasons why OTT platforms are acquiring popularity lately. High worth Content at Low value, Original Content, and Compatibility with multiple devices are the three main reasons why individuals are into OTT lately. Various kinds of OTT platforms are- Zee 5, ALT BALAJI, Amazon Prime Video, Voot, Sony Liv, Netflix, TATA SKY, and many more.[3]

CHAPTER 3: RISE OF OTT(Over the Top) PLATFORMS    

There are several causes for immense broadening in OTT platform Usage such as- 

  • OTT platforms provide freshly brewed and brand new Content in numerous languages and genres.[4]OTT platform provides content that is reasonable and low-cost, like Providers providing content like Amazon Prime charge reasonable rates that is 999 p.a. thereby making video streaming reasonable for maximum sections in India.
  • Films are now being announced on these online platforms way before their Television screening. Thus, waiting in queue for booking movie tickets is history.
  • Top and known OTT platforms tempt the viewers through the free premium subscription policies or by supplying a free trial for a month.
  • The shows on these platforms usually are ad-free attracting the viewers towards themselves. Viewers don’t have to see constant promotional material over and over and might relish the shows with no interference.[5]
  • Carrying remote and set-top boxes is so obsolete in current days, With the assistance of these OTT services, viewers can watch their favorite shows any moment and anyplace.
  • These OTT platforms give restricted and quality video content.
  • One doesn’t want to set a time or choose a time from the entire schedule to watch a show, this platform permits folks to possess their schedule by giving an option to download the video content and watch later.
LAWS GOVERNING OTT PLATFORMS  

Currently, in India, there are around 40 OTT providers’ media services. Till September, 2020 these OTT platforms were not regulated and hence IAMAI(India and mobile association of India) which is a body representing OTT put forth a model which is self regulatory in nature. And on 07.09.2020, these OTT platforms signed a self regulation Code in India. [6]

What is this Self Regulation Code?                                   

With the help of this Self Regulation Code, we can ourselves regulate to what content is to be entertained and what to be not.  The entire power is shifted to the viewer so that it does not hurt the sentiments of anyone. For ex- If there’s any show that is being hired on any of these OTT platforms, it will include the age classification as well “U”, 7+, 13+, 16+ or 18+. It will also include content description and Parental Controls.  Now it’s upon the discretion of the parents to what content their children will be watching because ultimately they will be the one who pay for subscription. [7]

Thus after this Self-regulation code was signed in September, in the middle of October a PIL was filed in SC and was stated that platform which shows digital contents should be available in public forum to all the people without any filtering or screening. The Supreme Court then went on to deal with the PIL that regulates OTT platform like Amazon Prime and Netflix. Finally as an outcome, a notification was passed by the Cabinet Secretariat in the Official Gazette of India stating that the Government of India now under the heading “MINISTRY OF INFORMATION AND BROADCASTING (SOOCHNA AUR PRASHASAN MANTRALAYA)” in the second schedule includes- the audio, visuals and the films which are made available to the audience by the content creators online and the platforms that show current affairs and news.[8] This will provide the government control over the OTT platforms, which were unregulated till now. And the self-regulatory code adopted by the OTTs prevented five kinds of content. That incorporates the contents that shames the national flag, any story line or context that encourages child pornography, any visuals that hurts religious sentiments, encourages terrorism and those contents which are banned itself by the court of law for exhibition. The government but then refused to support this code. And currently the government under Sec 67 of the Information Technology Rules, 2021 had come up with new rules and proper redressal mechanisms for both digital and non- digital media and OTTS. And 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. [9]

CONCEPT OF CENSORSHIP IN INDIA    

Have you ever come across a picture in any newspaper or TV channel or any other platforms that is blurred intentionally, a mute or a “beeep” sound in a video or in certain film scenes, a book being banned, and restrictions in watching any movie on a movie mall or any art that is prevented from being displayed publically or published because it is believed that it would hurt the sentiments of general public..[10] Each and every one of these is nothing but examples of censorship. Therefore “Censorship is nothing but preventing a communication or any other information or behavior from being seen by humans, on the basis that such material is considered to be objectionable, harmful, sensitive or inconvenient. Censorship even includes the concept of removal of any such material or content which can lead to enrage in the society.[11]

Films have always proved themselves to be a source of enormous knowledge to general public. They carry varieties of contents and bring the highlights to hidden information. The film industry plays a vital role when it comes to communicating the whole world with different diversities where every language has its own representation. These films and TV shows have always been a great method of conveying message or ideologies to the masses. Beginning from street drama, to motion pictures, color pictures, TV channels, cassettes, DVDs, now we have OTT platforms that keep ourselves updated and entertained. [12]

But these films are guided by the Centre Board of Film Certification (Censor Board) that is established under the act of Cinematographic Act, 1952. And as per this Act or Censor Board, “A film shall not be certified for public exhibition if, in the opinion of the authority competent to grant the certificate, the film or any part of it is against the interests of, inter alia, decency” .Thus limiting its freedom of expression. Our constitution provides the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.[13] As per Art 19 of our constitution, Under Article 19 every person has the right to put forth their opinion and this involves holding opinions without any kind of interferences and to seek and receive information and ideas through media regardless of any circumstances. And the court has made sure to maintain a balance between interest regarding freedom of speech and the interest of society. Because no doubt our constitution provides us various fundamental rights but there are certain restrictions (under Art 19(2)) always adhered to it such as public order, decency or morality. For censorship, the judgment regarding the film should be in accordance to that of the common sense of ordinary men and not the sense of oversensitive men.  [14]

The constitutionality of censorship was challenged before the SC in the case, K.A. Abbas vs. Union of India. In this case, the court upheld the constitutionality within the scope of Art 19(2), and held that films should be treated differently from other form of speech and expression. Adding on to it it must be for the interest of society. Bandit queen case is an good example of Censorship, also known as the Foolan Devi case where the women was allegedly raped and harassed before taking revenge on her attackers, and the scenes showing that were considered to be obscene and a PIL was filed to stop the screening of the film, to this the SC stated that the screening of movie cannot be stopped on the grounds that the film depicts obscene scenes. The question of obscenity had to be addressed in the context of the whole film and ruled that the objectionable scenes should not be in isolation. And sometimes, the content which is indescent and obscene for us may not be the same for us. [15]

But ultimately everything cannot be left under an ordinary man’s prudence, therefore certain restrictions are imposed under Art 19(2) of our Constitution. Thus censoring movies to remove unacceptable content by the censor board. It is mainly to make the movie appropriate for targeted audience.

CHAPTER 6: CENSORSHIP OF OTT PLATFORMS?    

OTT Platforms had remained unregulated for long, due to which it stayed favourite among the film makers as it allowed more freedom and creativity. A self-regulatory framework was signed by 15 OTT platforms last year, brought in by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), but government has denied to give any support to it as of now. As reported by the headlines of Economic Times, The Ministry of Information and Broad Casting, the self regulatory body was rejected in September last year as well. And now these OTTs function under the Government, subjecting them to Censorship Standards set by the Government. [16]

Its just like that the Indian Government is not happy with us sitting and chilling over our own personal choices. Starting from banning PDAs  and now to this, in the name of “PUBLIC INTEREST!” but who is responsible to provide a decision regarding if it is in the interest or public or not?

Coming to talk of Censorship of OTT platforms, is it really necessary?

  • We live in a democratic Country

Each and every one of us has the right to express one self and having said that we live in a society where people of different cultural and economic background exists, it would be sensible to exercise some self-censorship in order to be sensitive to this diversity, in spite of imposing rules of Censorship and hampering creativity of the Content Creators.

  • Self Regulation Code  signed is the best way currently.

This code provides codes with the help of which the Viewer is given the entire power for himself, and as audience we definitely have the sense to not to spend on content we do not want to watch( If 18 year old can decide whom to vote for, they can also decide what to watch and what not to).[17]

  • Freedom of Speech and Expression is the most vital for a creative industry to survive.

As guaranteed under Art 19 of our Constitution, we posses our right to freedom of speech and expression, thus the Industry just needs to be responsible for their content they put out and must not take advantage of lack of censorship.

  • It is not fair to decide as to what should be watched and what not.

Some contents available in these online platforms may be offensive for one and may not be offensive for the other audiences, thus it would be inappropriate to decide on behalf of the audiences to decide the nature of any content.

  • There’s no good reason to hide what everyone knows.

Films and Shows already come under CBFC, thus are censored. They cannot show every content and every truth going around the world. And these online flatworms making use of this freedom release every content which these screens cannot show, relating to things general public should know and they already know. And putting an end to this is proving no gain to the audience.

  • Information Technology Act , 2000 already available to deal with explicit content.

Taking an example of the most recent case, the Movie Tandav , was charges under the IT ct for hurting the religious sentiments of the People. 

  • Ambience of Censored movies are different from the Uncensored one

When we watch a movie in a theatre with hundreds of people who are strangers to us, the impact is completely different from watching it in private or with few family members or friends. And this distinction should be understood.

  • My discourage investment in OTT platforms.

Un censored content is what make OTTs different from big screens, if we censor this as well, this will lead to less investment in OTT Platforms.[18]

EFFECT OF COVID 19 IN OTT PLATFORMS    

When the ones living scenario has changed, what can be expected from an individual?\ Today entire planet is occupied in binging, and watching TV shows. As per recent statistics mobile information are least expensive within India, thus this leads to portraying an important role when it comes to OTT platform. And as the OTTs flourished, the state of Indian Cinema to from struggling rock bottom.  During this Pandemic, the OTT platforms had gain the maximum percentage of viewers, and a recent elaboration in daily national state that approximately forty givers of Over the Top service providers, distributing media all over the internet 24/7. [19]

OTTs is the best alternative view movies via many theatres and during this pandemic due which provides imminent danger to one’s health, OTTs received the maximum attention from viewers. This is profitable to film makers since it is giving them revenues from the viewing of the audience via their homes even when the theaters are closed during pandemic. Thus watching shows and various contents on these Platforms, within their homes, saving a lot of time and money and getting entertained is the only best thing happening this Pandemic. In July 2020, Disney Hotstar had its biggest opening via the movie Dil Bechara starring Sushant Singh Rajput. Along with this came many other successful movies and series that were streamed while pandemic. During this pandemic the paid up subscriptions grew up to 29 million by July 2020, based on India Brand Equity Foundation basing on the estimates available, there was a jump of 31% in four months of pandemic.[20] A You-gov survey of 8218 respondents, conducted in the month may-june 2020, had confirmed that women and younger audience were more into this consumption of video-on demand than men. 

CONCLUSION    

All these bodies would have any way seen an immense growth in near future, but due to this pandemic the Industry got great enthusiasm and encouragement from the fact that there was suspension of majority of the TV shooting in early phases of lockdown

OTT platforms have the maximum user base nowadays. They have proved themselves to be the source of enormous knowledge, thoughts, and opinions. 10 years from now, if these platforms are allowed to be themselves, they will reach heights. These platforms can be the source of the highest employment and income. Indian directors and producers are creating content on these OTT platforms without any hampers and putting in all their creativity in the content, which is even competing in the International market. These OTT platforms are not only helping us grow nationally but also internationally. If censorship comes into existence in these OTT platforms, it will not only hamper creativity and reduce the number of users worldwide but also discourage foreign investment. Thus in my opinion, as “Literature is the mirror of Society”, similarly no matter how the image may be, these OTT platforms show the true image of the society which people should know about. Preventing them to create an image will ultimately lead to the fall of our society as a whole. Also, these OTT platforms, as they have already come up with a self-regulatory code, must be followed as this code is far much better than the Censorship of these OTT platforms, as according to me Censorship is of no use as far as Art is concerned.

Author: Muskaan Fatwani

REFERENCES:-

[1] https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/censorship-and-self-regulation

[2] https://thewire.in/media/moral-policing-netflix-amazon-prime-latest-episode-censorship-india

[3] https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/censorship-and-self-regulation

[4] https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/should-there-be-censorship-on-digital-platform-major-ott-players-respond

[5] https://theprint.in/opinion/newsmaker-of-the-week/for-ott-platforms-in-india-tandav-blurs-the-line-between-self-regulation-and-censorship/590600/

[6] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/bigstory-censorship-of-ott-content-is-regulation-needed/articleshow/80596911.cms

[7] https://www.livemint.com/news/india/government-sets-out-regulations-for-digital-media-ott-platforms-11614254583608.html

[8] https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/netflix-amazon-prime-hotstar-ott-platforms-ministry-of-information-and-broadcasting-censorship#read-more#read-more#read-more

[9] https://www.theleaflet.in/censorship-and-creative-freedom-since-independence-to-ott-era/#

[10] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/entertainment-news-i-am-against-any-kind-of-censorship-even-on-ott-platforms-manoj-bajpayee/377242

[11] https://www.forbesindia.com/article/special/censorship-or-certification-how-should-ott-platforms-be-regulated/66285/1

[12] https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/from-censorship-to-classification-digital-media-rules-and-their-impact-on-otts/2213383/

[13] https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/should-there-be-censorship-on-digital-platform-major-ott-players-respond

[14] https://blog.finology.in/recent-updates/censorship-of-ott-platforms

[15] https://www.91mobiles.com/hub/ott-platform-full-form-best-services-india/

[16] https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/covid-19-pushes-up-ott-subscription-growth-by-60-bcg-report-120121601311_1.html

[17] https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/covid-19-pushes-up-ott-subscription-growth-by-60-bcg-report-120121601311_1.html

[18] https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/news/indias-new-rules-for-ott-platforms-could-lead-an-increase-in-content-related-disputes/articleshow/81306652.cms

[19] https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-says-new-rules-to-regulate-ott-platforms-lack-teeth/article33995501.ece

[20] https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/netflix-hotstar-amazon-prime-video-now-in-govt-tightrope/story/432337.html


[1] https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/censorship-and-self-regulation

[2] https://thewire.in/media/moral-policing-netflix-amazon-prime-latest-episode-censorship-india

[3] https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/culture-magazines/censorship-and-self-regulation

[4] https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/should-there-be-censorship-on-digital-platform-major-ott-players-respond

[5] https://theprint.in/opinion/newsmaker-of-the-week/for-ott-platforms-in-india-tandav-blurs-the-line-between-self-regulation-and-censorship/590600/

[6] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/bigstory-censorship-of-ott-content-is-regulation-needed/articleshow/80596911.cms

[7]https://www.livemint.com/news/india/government-sets-out-regulations-for-digital-media-ott-platforms-11614254583608.html

[8] https://www.thequint.com/voices/opinion/netflix-amazon-prime-hotstar-ott-platforms-ministry-of-information-and-broadcasting-censorship#read-more#read-more#read-more

[9] https://www.theleaflet.in/censorship-and-creative-freedom-since-independence-to-ott-era/#

[10] https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/entertainment-news-i-am-against-any-kind-of-censorship-even-on-ott-platforms-manoj-bajpayee/377242

[11] https://www.forbesindia.com/article/special/censorship-or-certification-how-should-ott-platforms-be-regulated/66285/1

[12]https://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/from-censorship-to-classification-digital-media-rules-and-their-impact-on-otts/2213383/

[13] https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/should-there-be-censorship-on-digital-platform-major-ott-players-respond

[14] https://blog.finology.in/recent-updates/censorship-of-ott-platforms

[15] https://www.91mobiles.com/hub/ott-platform-full-form-best-services-india/

[16] https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/covid-19-pushes-up-ott-subscription-growth-by-60-bcg-report-120121601311_1.html

[17] https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/covid-19-pushes-up-ott-subscription-growth-by-60-bcg-report-120121601311_1.html

[18]https://www.businessinsider.in/tech/news/indias-new-rules-for-ott-platforms-could-lead-an-increase-in-content-related-disputes/articleshow/81306652.cms

[19]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-says-new-rules-to-regulate-ott-platforms-lack-teeth/article33995501.ece

[20] https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/netflix-hotstar-amazon-prime-video-now-in-govt-tightrope/story/432337.html

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