At a time when there is an intense debate going on about the use of abusive language in content of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, members of a parliamentary panel reportedly asked executives of several industry players, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney + Hotstar, on Monday (May 15) to refrain from showing obscenities on their platforms and respect the country’s cultural sensitivities.
Top executives of these streaming companies deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Communication and Technology, ET reported. The panel is chaired by Shiv Sena MP Prataprao Jadhav and comprises veteran actor and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Shatrughan Sinha, among others.
Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Secretary Apurva Chandra also attended the meeting, along with other officials from the ministry, the report said.
During the meeting, other issues such as piracy and the need to bring OTT platforms under the ambit of Cinematograph Act also came up for discussion. Congress MP Karti Chidambaram reportedly said that the issue of piracy needs to be dealt with stringently.
More importantly, the panel also sought details on the revenue generated by these platforms from India and how much of that amount was invested back. The OTT platforms are expected to give written replies to the panel on the questions asked by its members. Meanwhile, the income tax authorities are seeking to tax Netflix Inc’s income from the country.
There have been demands from various quarters for censoring platforms for allegedly showing vulgar and abusive content. Last year, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur also warned OTT platforms that vulgarity and abusive language was not acceptable in the name of creativity Last month, Chandra also said that the government’s ‘soft-touch’ regulatory approach towards the OTT streaming space has led to some content that is ‘not desirable’.
“… there are concerns that this (these) soft-touch regulations may have led to some content which is not desirable. We would request the industry to be cognizant of the concerns and culture of the country,” said Chandra. While hearing a case filed with regards to the webseries ‘College Romance’, which is being streamed on SonyLiv, YouTube and TVFPlay, the Delhi High Court said that the language used in the show is ‘obscene and vulgar’. The court also said that there is a need to regulate content with vulgar language on such platforms.
Bollywood actor Salman Khan also waded into the debate, saying that cleaner content will have a wider audience, and asked why OTT platforms should not be censored when films and TV channels are. Currently, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, provide for a Code of Ethics to be followed by the publishers of online curated content.
The government has also introduced a three-level grievance redressal mechanism to address grievances relating to the violation of the Code under the rule notified in February 2021. The I&B ministry redressed 265 grievances against OTT content under the IT rules, 2021 as of February 2023. The OTT market in India is dominated by JioCinema, Disney+Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, SonyLIV, Zee5, among others.