Government of India recently issued a notification bringing online films and audio-visual programmes & online news and current affairs content under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. With this, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting headed by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar will be entrusted with the power to regulate policies related to news, audio, visual contents and films available on online platforms.
This move to censor on line content has been raised many times, I&B Ministry has been mulling over the issue and finally the call has been taken. This notification will not only monitor on line news portals to curb fake news but also content on OTT platforms. One can argue that whether this move is encroaching on individual freedom of speech or expression. It is also argued that the online content is under a Pay wall and it is an individual’s choice what he or she wants to watch.
Earlier this year, a Tamil web series, ‘GODMAN’ which was supposed to release on June 12, courted controversy ever since the teaser was out. Several religious outfits and organisations in Tamilnadu filed complaints against the makers of the series for featuring strong anti-Hindu and anti-Brahminical dialogues in the teaser. Amid this rising controversy ZEE 5 decided to stop the release of the show. They also issued a statement saying the platform and producers of the show did not intend to offend anyone’s religious beliefs or a particular community.
The producer of the show, R Elango, released a statement saying that the web series should not be banned, and doing so, it is an attack on the freedom of expression and media. He lashed out at organisations and politicians who had filed cases against them.
At times it makes you wonder, as to how a 1-minute trailer can create this kind of reaction.We spoke to a few Media Experts and OTT players. Most of the players refused to comment on the notification.
Karan Bedi, CEO – MX Player said, “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.”
Shivam Varshney, CEO, KIKO TV, said, “The move by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for regulating content on OTT platforms, under official regulation is a welcome move. Till now the platforms were self-regulated, which raised several complaints of adult content and content that could provoke religious sentiments. This move would mean that a lot of users may come to short format apps wherein the content is largely user generated. In fact, prior to the current ban on TikTok, there was a temporary ban earlier due to issues of adult content, and it was returned on the App Store based on promises of self-regulation. We at KIKO TV are aware of such challenges which erupt and have a system in place even before these regulations came in. Our intelligent AI engine blocks all adult content as well as religious and politically motivated content, making it a safer and enjoyable platform for all age groups. We are sure with this move of the I&B ministry, the quality of content on OTT will change drastically and might affect the user base at an initial level.”
Heeru Dingra, CEO, WATConsult, says,“2020 has been a year full of changes, to say the least, and while we are approaching closer to welcoming 2021, this news coming in from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has introduced another one. Online content providers including OTT platforms and news & current affair portals, have brought in a shift from the complacent TV media to a newer, freer approach, which the audience has appreciated immensely. This new ecosystem that has been building lately, will definitely find itself changing with the new guidelines. Putting regulations in place no doubt helps streamline things and as long as content creators and digital platforms can practice their full imaginative and creative potentials, this step will only add value.”