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Is Censoring Possible For OTT Content?

Is Censoring Possible For OTT Content?

Change is constant and new challenges surface with the changes. With the closure of the theaters and with the increasing popularity of the OTT platforms, the discussions have started on censoring the content on OTT platforms.

The audience used to go to the theaters for watching the new films earlier and all the films that have theatrical release will go through censoring. But movies, web films, web series are streaming directly on OTT platforms and this digital content available at home is without any censoring. 

The adult content, foul language, lacking sensitivity while showing issues like religion, caste that could trigger tensions in the society have become worrying factors.

The 'Sin' on the Aha platform became a hot topic for its adult content.  'Patal Lok' web series on Amazon Prime Video has a disturbing scene that grabbed the attention of everybody. And we have the most popular vibrator scene from 'Lust Stories' that was streamed long back.

Some people are complaining that the recently released 'Krishna and His Leela' has vulgar words. There are several such examples, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many people are demanding a controlling/screening authority like a censor board for the digital content streamed on OTT platforms. Is it really possible to censor digital content?

If we talk about Telugu films, 150-200 films are made per annum. The makers approach the censor board for the certification before the release. Within a period of fifteen days, their film will be certified by the censor board. 

The makers believe that their film will not have legal issues related to the movie content once they secure the certificate. This is the practice going on for a long time.

The number of theaters is limited and there are other factors like holiday seasons so the number of movies is always limited. But the situation will be completely contrast with digital space. OTT platforms don't have challenges like the availability of theaters, holiday seasons, middlemen who call the shots, etc.

There are nearly 40 OTT platforms available in India and that includes international players. The number is going to double triple in a couple of years. So, the content is going to be huge to screen if at all there is censor board kind of entity.

The existing framework of censor board may not be able to handle the content. Moreover, the online content comes under the Cyber Law. The rules and regulations are different when it comes to censoring.  Whoever has objections towards the content has to file cases under cyber law.

Some people are suggesting that the government should issue guidelines regarding the adult, abusive content on the OTTs. If they don't follow the guidelines, the government will have a right to stop the services of that particular OTT platform in India.

Many people are not aware of the fact that the censor board only certifies the film as U, U/A, A, etc and they should not tell the filmmakers on what should be removed from the film.  It is against the creative freedom of the filmmakers. When 'Udta Punjab' team was suggested a record number of cuts from the censor board, they went to the revising committee and argued the same point. They were successful in releasing the film in theaters without any cuts.

The majority of the filmmakers approach the censor board in the eleventh hour so they will neither have the time to fight with the censor board nor the patience to go the revising committee. They just follow the 'cuts' suggested by them to obtain the certificate.

'Freedom of expression should not be curbed', this is one of the fundamental tenets of our Indian constitution. So, the censor board doesn't have the right to curb the creative freedom of a filmmaker.

If this is the case of regular movies that for the theatrical release, what about the digital content? The government is unable to put a check to the adult content on video streaming sites like YouTube, it is unable to ban porn that is available on every smartphone till now.  Despite the government's ban on a few porn sites, there are a huge number of other porn sites available. People are also accessing banned porn sites with some simple bypassing techniques. Some netizens are batting for their 'Right to view' the desired content.

In such a situation, it is highly difficult to bring censoring for digital content on OTT platforms.  Even if the government takes a step in the direction there are several hurdles in the path to clear to achieve 100% censoring of OTT content.

Lakshmi Ramachandran

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Tags: OTT