OTT route to regulation: Ratings, grievance redressal and more

Updated on Feb 28, 2021 11:25 AM IST

Trade experts, filmmakers and actors share their views on calls for OTT regulation and government notifying rules to mandate content classification on online platforms.

A lot of web shows have come under the scanner and OTT platforms are expected to self regulate their content.
A lot of web shows have come under the scanner and OTT platforms are expected to self regulate their content.
BySugandha Rawal

With the government announcing a code of ethics for the OTT platforms and making it mandatory to self-classify the content int five age-based categories, the discussion around regulation of web content ha once again gained steam.

Ever since the team of web series Tandav including Ali Abbas Zafar and Saif Ali Khan was caught in the eye of storm, there is a huge interest in the future steps planned by the government to regulate content. Especially after the pandemic, when it has become an important source for entertainment for many.

“The guidelines show that the government is focusing more on self regulatory control. They are just trying to monitor the content which is coming on OTT platforms. What exact steps and protocols they plan for this should be clear soon. I hope none of them curb creativity and freedom of speech is maintained. Having said that, it was needed because there was so much trolling and negativity and the government had to take the matter in their hand,” explains trade expert Girish Johar.

As per new rules, web platforms will have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories — U (universal), U/A 7+, U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (adult). Grievance redressal system has also been made mandatory.

For Abhimanyu Singh, creator of State of Siege: 26/11, rating system is a good thing to have happened.

“It becomes simpler for parents to decide what the children should be watching and what they shouldn’t be watching. I always felt that some kind of guidelines needed to be put in place. It will even help makers decide what kind of content they want to make,” Singh tells us.

According to actor Maanvi Gagroo, misogynistic and gender regressive content needs to be put under the scanner.

“Freedom of speech and expression for any creative work is important and as long as the regulations remain within the purview of the current laws and don’t become vague and/or propaganda driven, I think we’re fine. Although, we could update regulations around content that’s misogynistic, gender regressive and caste insensitive, everything is more or less covered”.

Whatever regulations come into place, she further asserts, “need to be well defined and not be open to multiple interpretations and at the same time be extremely careful about not impeding the creator’s freedom of expression”.

Earlier this year, 17 prominent OTT players of the country including Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, had adopted a toolkit based on the Universal Self-regulation Code.

However, a recent survey by LocalCircles, which was prepared using responses from over 50,000 OTT users, revealed that 78% respondents wanted more information on OTT code of regulation and had little understanding about it.

The report also pointed that the users are leaning towards the rating system along with content type — an idea that filmmaker Hansal Mehta also suggested just few days before the government released their plan to regulate the streaming platforms.

“One can rate the content to inform the audience whether it has nudity, sex, drug use or violence. One can put in categories, what else one need to do in it,” says Mehta, adding, “I don’t understand the word ‘code of conduct’. Are we in school? Where they tell one how to behave. One can put out self regulation guidelines, which people can follow.”

According to trade expert Joginder Tuteja, OTT as a medium should be left untouched.

“It has to be left to the makers. I don’t think there should be anything black or white, where it is always open for interpretation. We have that with the Censor board where things have been happening when it comes to movie releases in the theatres and there are many issues and controversies,” he says.

Tuteja also states that makers must have that kind of “credibility, the thought process, and the need to have the due diligence to do what they have to do”.

Actor Namit Das, who is frequent with his OTT outings, feels the platform gained prominence because there were no regulations.

“Having said that, I think now we have come to a stage where it is full blown. It is a separate medium. Now, all creators need to have some sort of a responsibility whenever they are putting out something on any platform because we are going through a very sensitive time, and anything that is wrongly placed can hurt the sentiments of a particular population. One should be careful about that, because this medium has really become big now. It’s no longer the medium for young people,” Namit explains, calling OTT a “medium for everyone”.

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