An over-the-top (OTT) media service is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. The term is synonymous to subscription based video-on-demand (VoD). While it seems a convenient way to stream entertainment its also a topic of prolonged public dispute these days , all thanks to uncensored content all over the internet. There's a continuous debate that "OTT content should undergo the eagle-eyes of censor board or not?" . However, its a fact that OTT content will lose its edge if censored.
In past few years various public interest litigation (PILs) are filed in the various High Courts and the Supreme Court , issuing notices to the central and the state governments to reply to pleas seeking a censor board for regulating adult content in the social media and OTT (over-the-top) platforms.
The petitioners sought the court to also temporarily stop social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and OTT platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Videos, Hotstar, MX Player, Voot, Zee5 and so many more from uploading or telecasting any obscene videos. The petitioners in general stated that there are several adult and explicit content on the social media and OTT platforms which could have an adverse effect on the minds of the young. Hence the PILs, stated the contents that are digitally streamed, need to be censored.
Recently a PIL, filed by advocate Shashank Shekhar Jha, claiming "The OTT platforms in India abuses the right to expression granted in Article 19, thus is against Right to Life of people at large (Article 21)". A bench, comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, after a brief hearing in the matter, issued notices to the Union government , the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Internet and the Mobile Association of India.
At present, however, there is no law or governing body to monitor and manage the digital contents and it is made available to the masses without any filter or screening. Majority of Indians believe that over-the-top (OTT) platforms need their wings clipped. 9 in 10 people in the country feel that some form of censorship is required on OTT platforms. Over half of them agrees that its “unsuitable content” for public viewing especially young viewers.
The government plans to regulate and censor digital content. Popular Indian shows such as Sacred Games, Mirzapur and Leila on Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos have faced backlash from some rightist groups, who claim the shows depict the country and its citizens as barbarians and uncivilized . But that’s the point of fiction, its not the reality. What’s drama without some drama?
Those who advocate some form of censorship are also uncertain of what it will do to the OTT universe in India. As I see it, it will lead to more illegal downloads. There will be a decline in the quality of content.
There has to be some sort of censorship. Censorship is important in a certain category of OTT as many minors also have access to it. Nudity, violence and abusive language, is very common in OTT platforms, which creates a negative impact on delicate young minds. But also as the OTT platforms are bringing us more and more out-of-the-box content, directors and writers are presenting their stories with more freedom and style. This doesn’t only give the audience a chance to get clarity and understand the issues of the content but also works in favor of the storytellers.
There are of-course obscenities in the visuals and language of the content but on the other hand shows like Netflix's "Sex Education" is a paramount of changing vision and uprooting the stigmas. On a cultural level, homosexuality is still taboo in much of the world especially India. As such, a lot of shows and movies that have had intimacy between same-sex couples shouldn't be censored as this brings us back to square one. Movies like "Un-freedom" never got a chance to make up to the big silver screen but the OTT platform (Netflix) got it covered for the audience.
There must be some bar for the OTT content but as mentioned earlier, the internet is a dark place too, extreme censorship will eventually lead to piracy and unethical downloading of the uncensored and unabridged version.
So as what I feel instead of censoring content blindly under the impression of explicit and uncivilized we should focus more towards making our audience more sensible towards the content , because curiosity kills the cat and censoring fuels it more. So perhaps the bold is the new beautiful.