Online streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ Hotstar, Voot, Amazon Prime and others have offered to self-police content on their respective platforms to avoid censorship from Indian authorities. About 15 companies have signed a self-regulatory code, described as the “Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs (Online Curated Content Providers)” to prevent regulators from censoring content deemed problematic by them.
The 15 signatories include 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.
The new self-regulation code mandates the service providers to set up grievance redressal mechanism, involving complaint department, internal committees or both to deal with the issues. The code was presented over the weekend by The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), emphasising that intends to “empower consumers with information and tools to assist them in making an informed choice” and “nurture creativity and provide creators the freedom to tell the finest stories.”
The common practices under the new code include providing content descriptions, age ratings, and parental controls. In addition to this, online platforms are mandated to set up a Consumer Redressal Department or/and an internal committee, an advisory panel, to address the complaints, appeals and escalations raised by the people. The advisory panel should have a minimum of three members, including two senior executives of the platform, and one independent advisor. The external advisors will be appointed in the next 60 days.
OTT platforms have a history of airing problematic content on their platforms
The development comes at a time when many Over The Top (OTT) media streaming services had a free pass, airing content without exercising any censorship over it. They were accused of providing their platform for Hinduphobic movie makers to host deeply problematic and severely critical content with impunity as the government had been reluctant in censoring the content that went on their platforms.
For far too long, Netflix, the American online streaming service, has been involved in airing controversial web series that depicted Hinduism and Hindu Gods in a bad light. Recently, a controversy was kicked up, after Netflix’s new Telugu film “Krishna and his Leela” showed a male character named Krishna having sexual encounters with many women, one of them with a girl named Radha. The controversy created a furore on social media platforms, with many users vehemently criticising Netflix for hurting their religious sentiments.
This was not the first time that Netflix has been accused of providing a platform for disseminating Hinduphobic views through its platform and hurting the religious sensitivities of lakhs of pious Hindus. Earlier, Netflix series such as Sacred Games, Ghoul and Leila were decried for portraying Hinduism and Hindu practices as wicked.
Amazon Prime has also been accused of providing its portal space to blatantly Hinduphobic content. The online streaming service by Amazon had come under attack after Anushka Sharma produced ‘Paatal Lok’ was accused of broadcasting Hinduphobic views. The social media users criticised the show for degrading the Hindu culture by glorifying beef-eating in a few scenes.
Another OTT platform, Zee5, was under the fire of Hindu organisations and senior BJP leaders over the blatant Hinduphobia pushed by the platform through its new Tamil web series ‘Godman’. Several Hindu groups, including prominent voices BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, social media users had raised their voices against the anti-Hindu web series. The blowback from the Hindu organisations and Hindus on social media was so severe that Zee5 had to suspend the release of the controversial web series.
Ekta Kapoor’s Alt Balaji had also come under a severe attack of the social media users after many complained that an erotic show on the platform disrespected and disparaged the Indian Army personnel. After receiving flak for a controversial sex scene in her erotic web series XXX 2, streaming on OTT platform Alt Balaji, producer Ekta Kapoor later claimed that the team has deleted the scene in question.