Over the top, also known as OTT platform, offers visual entertainment i.e. television and film content, through the internet. Yes, it is doing the same task as television and has overtaken the job done by television (cable and satellite). There are numerous OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Voot, Alt Balaji, Hulu, etc. Today, the OTT platforms don’t have any regulatory body to strictly control the content produced. They are free of any regulations or censorship. Hence, they enjoy and make creative use of their freedom. The lack of Censorship on OTT Platforms sometimes tends to hurt people’s sentiments. Thus, censorship and regulation of OTT content in India have become a heated debate. This blog is dedicated to the Censorship on OTT Platforms In India.

Censorship on OTT Platforms In India – Is it needed?

The content provided on OTT platforms often violates various laws of the nation. Sometimes they even religious and cultural sentiments. Thus, I believe that Censorship on OTT Platforms In India is necessary.  But whether a self-regulatory body or proper legislation, that provides for a statutory body to control and censor the content streaming on OTT platforms, is a burning and tricky question.

The Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Law and Justice, Electronics, Information and Technology, Telecom, and CBFC does not exercise any sort of jurisdiction over such platforms. The Government considers such platforms to be intermediaries where they cannot exercise jurisdiction.

Previously, there was no need for the regulatory body for the OTT platforms. However, as per the situation now, it has become highly debatable whether OTT content should have a regulatory body or not. Our OTT platforms are providing several disturbing contents for society, culture, religious values, place, law, people, children, etc. We know that media is highly influential in nature. It is necessary to provide content that doesn’t harm the people and their society.

Digital Curated Content Complaint Council (DCCCC), an adjudicatory body was formed by Hotstar, Sony Liv, Jio and Eros, to avoid the imposition of the Government’s own rules on them. However, most of the OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Alt Balaji, Mx Player, Zee, etc. don’t support this move. DCCCC is similar to the Broadcast Content Complaints Council (BCCC). BCCC is a self-regulatory body for non-news entertainment channels. They believe that the thin difference between a broadcasting channel and an OTT platform will get null and their Right to Free Speech under Article 19(1)(a) (Freedom of Speech and Expression) will be violated.

OTT platforms in India and its Issues

One issue surrounding OTT content was John Oliver on Hotstar. He actively criticized Narendra Modi and CAA. The show was blocked. A similar incident on Hasan Minaj’s show that dealt with Lok Sabha Elections, 2019, and was highly criticized later.

However, Netflix didn’t succumb to the pressure. Shows like ‘Sacred Games’ was criticized for some speculative lines on Rajeev Gandhi. It had also mentioned about the Bofors scam. ‘Leila’ was criticized as it hurt the feeling of Hindus by promoting Hinduphobia. It was highly criticized by viewers.

Other than Netflix, Amazon Prime also deleted an entire episode of CBS Political Drama “Madam Secretary” in its Indian version. The show hurt the sentiments of various people regarding Hindu Nationalism, India occupied Kashmir, violence on Muslims by majoritarians, etc.

Recently, the Madhya Pradesh High Court dealt with the situation in a PIL filed by an NGO, Maatr Foundation (W.P. No. 18801/2019). The plea was filed to deal with the regulations against alleged streaming of obscene and sexually explicit content. They alleged that these media content streamers are broadcasting content that is unregulated, un-certified, vulgar, and legally restricted. They portray women indecently and shall be punished under sections 3, 4, and 7 of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986. The streamers shall also be punished under Sections 292-294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for publicly exhibiting, distributing, and portraying obscene acts, pamphlets, representation, figures, etc.

Censorship on OTT Platforms In India – My Conclusion

The content on OTT, no matter how explicit, can also be viewed by children under 18 years of age. This exposes them to sexual acts, violent activities, and vulgar content. We tend to impersonate multiple characters and movie scenes too. So, freely showing violence on women and disrespecting them can also influence the minds of people.

Thus, by looking at the present scenario, Censorship on OTT Platforms In India is a must. Even though art should not be constricted, everything has its limits. Thus, film-making should follow proper guidelines. 

What do you think about Censorship on OTT Platforms In India? Tell me in the comments below!