On 9th November 2020, President Ram Nath Kovind signed a new amendment to the Government of India. It stated that they will be adding new rules to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others will now be considered in the same category as Doordarshan, Cable TV, and All India Radio. No government body was involved with these platforms earlier. In fact, the government has no right over their content. However, they are now taking over the platforms as they want to control and regulate the content. I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar said that they are talking with the organizations but there have been no updates from their side.
China and Singapore are the only two countries that have regulated censorship by the government. A Ministry wrote a petition to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting asking them to regulate the content streamed online. Many people feel that the content is inappropriate for the viewers. The government will be using the Cable Regulation Act 1995 as a template for regulating the content that the platforms will release. There are certain “dont’s” that the creators will have to follow from now onwards. It will not be easy to monitor the content and probably the government will have to set up a different committee to monitor the content 24/7.
Why does the government want to regulate the content?
The one thing that concerns the audience is the censorship of the series and movies. The ruling party Bhartiya Janta Party is initiating the move. They feel that the OTT platforms are spreading content which is different from the traditional media. The government, on the other hand, is more into critical journalism. Internet freedom in India has been decreasing in the past few years. The government has been taking out content from the internet if they find the content inappropriate or offensive for the audience to watch.
#OTTPlatforms to be controlled by government
Me after watching Web series like Mirzapur sacred game be like- pic.twitter.com/VaxQYUsMDp
— sarcasm__27 (@rahuljoshi144) November 12, 2020
Freedom of speech on the internet in India is very less especially due to the religious sentiments of the people. Content which talks about facts that involve the corrupt activities of the government in anyways has been banned for release. ‘Bad Boy Billionaires: India‘ is one such example that was a part of such controversy. In 2015, the government also passed rules regarding a porn ban where they blocked 900+ sites throughout the country. Recently, all Chinese websites and applications were also blocked in the country due to political tensions between India and China.
How will the involvement of the government affect the OTT platforms?
Digital platforms, especially OTTs were the only way for the creators to express their creativity without any kind of censorship. When it comes to television or movies, it has to go through the Central Board of Film Certification. As a result, the board crops out the scenes that break any rules. If the government passed this law, it will be difficult for the creators. They will not be able to release any series or movies without undergoing certain issues. Nikhil Pahwa, a digital rights activist stated that the government has taken this decision as an initiative to control the information that is passed through such platforms. Consequently, the government will force the platforms to release content according to their rules. Probably, the government will even set the code as they desire.
The Government has always been in control of the content we consume.
Earlier it was just the news and now even OTT platforms.
— Shrey Bothra (@sasta_shreikh) November 12, 2020
So now we live in a country where the government will decide what we need to watch. Is this what we call freedom? #OTTPlatforms
— Shyam R. Nair (@iamShyamR) November 11, 2020
OTT platforms under government rule🤦🏻
— Der Kommissar (@chibipaarth) November 11, 2020
Many shows on some OTT platforms such as ‘Paatal Lok‘, ‘Rasbhari‘, ‘Sacred Games‘, and more have addressed sensitive topics such as violence, castism, homophobia, Hindu-Muslim relation, and more. They address politically sensitive topics through their story with a motive to educate the youngsters about them. Traditional media in India is pro-government. Consequently, any other platform that talks about them has to face some kind of obstacle for proving their statements out to the world. Recently, the subscribers for these platforms have increased a lot. The only reason is that the new generation avoids watching the news through a traditional medium. A democratic country does not take steps like regulating news websites and such digital platforms. The government trying to control every activity will only benefit them and not the citizens.
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