Whether it was the steamy sex scenes on Netflix’s movie 365 days or the language and violence on Amazon Prime’s hit TV Show Mirzapur, the audience was quick to love the content because it was unfiltered, raw and uncensored. Online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar and Disney Plus among others have previously enjoyed the liberty to showcase content that did not have to be scrutinised by the censor board. However, under a new order by the Union Government on Wednesday, digital and online media, as well as news and current affairs content online, will come under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
What does this mean for online streaming platforms?
Since online streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar as well as digital news media have come under the jurisdiction of the I&B ministry, it is likely that their content would be scrutinised by the censor board. This also means that the Union Government now has the power to draft policies for these streaming platforms, just like the way it does for online Indian television and print media.
Previously, all digital media platforms were under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) while only radio, print and television media were under I&B. However, I&B has been seeking jurisdiction over these platforms to impose regulations on content.
Why was this control imposed?
Since the I&B ministry already has control over television and print media, it wanted to level the playing field with respect to the content that is showcased on online streaming platforms and add regulations to their content.
This move is a result of public interest litigation that was issued in October to regulate the content of OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar, among others.
While online streaming platforms like Zee5, Viacom 18, Disney+Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, MX Player, Jio Cinema, Eros Now, Alt Balaji, Arre, HoiChoi, Hungama, Shemaroo, Discovery Plus and Flickstree had signed a ‘self-regulation code’ in order to avoid censorship by the government, it was not supported by the I&B ministry as it did not have a list of prohibited content.
While this move comes at a time when there is rising concern over the kind of content that is being shown on these platforms, censorship by the government is uncalled for. Since most of the content that is showcased on these platforms is not even made in India, it is unlikely that they will meet the strict regulations of Indian censorship.