Government issued guidelines to curb the content shown on OTT platforms

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In recent times, there have been two or three reports which can change both the condition and direction of the entertainment world. There is a news that the statement of Aparna Purohit related to Amazon Prime Video was recorded by the Uttar Pradesh Police. This statement has been taken in connection with the case filed for objectionable content in the web series Tandava.

Aparna was interrogated by the police at Hazratganj Kotwali, Lucknow. Another news related to this came from Prayagraj. The Allahabad High Court refused to grant anticipatory bail to Aparna Purohit. A case was also registered in Noida about the web series Tandava on Aparna, in which she wanted anticipatory bail from the High Court.  For the past several years, there has been controversy over the content of the web series shown on the video streaming site, also known as the Over the Top (OTT) platform. For the past three years, the content on these web series has been subjected to various allegations ranging from violence, sexual acts and advocacy to ideology under the guise of entertainment, misrepresentation of Hinduism symbols. Whenever disputes arose on these matters, there was a demand from the government that a regulation policy should be implemented in the context of the material appearing on the OTT.

In this column too, there has been a continuous discussion that to curb the growing anarchy in this area, the government should make a system of guidelines or certification of content. There were also several rounds of dialogue with representatives of companies working in the sector to implement regulation at the government level, but no conclusions were reached. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court had made strict comments in 2018 about the content appearing on OTT, the matter also arose in Parliament several times. The government has issued guidelines regarding the content shown on it. The central government guidelines have talked about self-regulation for the content shown on OTT, but the government has made it clear how the regulation should be and what its scope should be. It has been made clear that no platforms will show visuals and dialogues that hurt the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India.

Under the guise of artistic freedom, no material will be allowed to be shown which is not law-abiding. But the government, while issuing the guidelines, has asked the service providers to develop its mechanism. The good thing is that in the system that the government has made, it is not a matter of taking permission from anyone before showing the programs, that is, the government has not adopted the path of pre-censorship. Everything is left on these platforms. Service provider companies will have to categorize their own materials.  Entertainment materials of different ages have been categorized. Service providers have to follow this. If anyone complains or violates these rules in any way, a three-tier arrangement has been made to deal with them. This arrangement is on the same lines as the self-regulation of TV programs.

All kinds of apprehensions are being raised about the guidelines of the government’s self-regulation. Some self-styled directors of the film industry are calling this a step to stifle artistic freedom. Actually, when they talk about artistic freedom, they do not mind that this freedom is not unlimited. The Indian constitution also lays down the boundaries of freedom of expression. It is also not that India is the first country in the world to issue guidelines for these entertainment mediums that run on the Internet media. There are clear guidelines for OTT in many countries. There is an authority in Singapore – Infocomm Media Development Authority. It was established under the Broadcasting Act.  Under this, all service providers have to get a license from this authority under the Broadcasting Act.

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