OTT platforms sign self regulation code in India: Here’s what the platforms and experts have to say about it

Hindustan Times | ByRishabh Suri, New Delhi
Sep 07, 2020 01:34 PM IST

As many as 15 major OTT platforms in India have signed a self regulation code. Is this to keep censorship at bay? What all does this code entail? We talk to a few OTT platforms and experts to know their take.

Censorship on OTT platforms, or rather the absence of it, has been a topic of discussion for quite some time now. Many looked at it as both the best and worrying part about it, owing to how makers have the freedom to now make content which was exactly what they wanted to make, without any apprehensions of it getting cut upon certification. However, the other half looked at it as something that could easily be exploited in the name of art.

Experts feel this self regulation code is to circumvent censorship on the OTT platforms.
Experts feel this self regulation code is to circumvent censorship on the OTT platforms.

Now, 15 OTT platforms, including Netflix, Disney Plus Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Zee5, Voot, Jio Cinema, ALTBalaji, Eros Now, Hungama and Shemaroo, have signed a self regulation code, to govern their curated streaming content.They aim to do this by adhering to disclosures such as, specifying maturity ratings and content descriptors (e.g., language, violence, sex), and it’s effective immediately.

Nachiket Pantvaidya, CEO, ALTBalaji and Group COO, Balaji Telefilms, tells us, “The Universal Self Regulation Code was long due. With the entire industry adopting it, the code will not only give creative freedom to the creators but also aid consumers in making informed choices. The existence of individual structural grievance redressal body will empower the consumers in making the entire process more organised.”

Each platform which has signed this code created by Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) will also have to set up a consumer complaints department and/or an internal committee, and an advisory panel to deal with appeals and complaints. 

Zee 5 CEO and IAMAI Chair Tarun Katial says in a statement, “With the Framework for Age Classification, Content Descriptions and parental controls in combination with a grievance redressal system, we’ve made it easier for consumers to make the right viewing decisions for themselves and their families.”

Explaining why this self regulation by various platform sis to circumvent censorship, trade analyst Komal Nahta tells us, “People had been complaining there is too much violence, and sex in web series or films made and streamed on OTT platforms. Therefore, platforms decided that to keep censorship at bay, we will have our own code. Of course, they already had, but they were individual, and these codes vary from country to country. Like Netflix, in it’s synopsis, mentions that this could be an issue as far as violence, or sex or language is concerned. A joint self regulation code is nothing but a way of ensuring that censorship is not made compulsory, in fact it can never be, because how do you control today with the internet?”

Producer Pritish Nandy, who has been behind popular web shows such as Four More Shots Please!, is against ‘all forms of restrictions’, and feels maybe this regulation could be better than censorship.

“For me, freedom of expression is always the best. All restrictions limit the work of creativity, or work of art. Censorship, often politically motivated, looking into work is that much worse. In an ideal world, there should be none. It should depend on the dignity of work. Painters and musicians don’t have that, why should we? There’s a reason why you insist on freedom of press and expression. I believe in the freedom of expression in entertainment,” says Nandy.

Trade analyst Taran Adarsh feels self censorship is important. “In today’s time, you can get carried away, and especially in terms of competition. Kids are also watching, it shouldn’t be a bad influence. If you draw a line somewhere, there will be no problem with content. I am not referring to usual content, but that which could be very controversial. We have seen instances in the past couple of years, people didn’t like, that’s the reason,” he says.

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