Netflix, Hotstar Join But Amazon Rejects: The Curious Case Of Self-Regulation in India

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With more and more film-makers and producers joining the digital bandwagon, rolling down the web route, creative freedom has certainly gone way off the hook, for some! Maybe that’s the reason there has been this snap call for attention towards the whole buzz around “self-regulation”!

The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) released its OTT self-regulation document called Code of Best Practices for online curated content providers. The different signatories include eight over the top online video streaming platforms, namely Netflix (NASDAQ: NLFX), Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Arre, SonyLIV, ALT Balaji and Eros Now. However, looks like Amazon Prime has not taken-up this code of self-regulatory best practice in a positive way. According to reports, Amazon Prime isn’t a part of this self-regulation.

The code, which was in the making for about a year now, further concretes the regulations for OCCPs to air content that is transparent, and at the same time acceptable for the sensitive audience of the country. This code also highlights the need for protecting consumer interests to its best in order to raise the digital streaming spectrum.

The ABCs of the Proposed Code!

OTT content has not been under India’s heavy-handed censorship umbrella. The rules and regulations thus mentioned are administered by the country’s Central Board of Film Certification. Apparently, the strict watchdog is considering its chances to subject online streaming content to the same rules.

The signatories of the code have agreed not to entertain the following:

  • Content maliciously intended at disrespecting the national emblem or national flag.
  • Content representation of any child engaged in sexual activities, be it real or simulated.
  • Representation of sexual parts of children for obscene purposes.
  • Content deliberately and maliciously intending to harm religious sentiments and thus leading to any sort of disharmony or outrage.
  • Content deliberately and maliciously, promoting or encouraging terrorism or any such form of violence against India.
  • Content that is formerly banned for display or online distribution under applicable laws or any competent jurisdiction headed by any court.

Amazon’s Polarity and The Big Why?

The Seattle-based technology company, offering online video streaming service called Amazon Prime, has opted not to sign up to the code. Apparently, it claims that the existing Indian laws and norm made for online streaming content is sufficient to deal with disapproved content.

It was anticipated much ahead of the whole spark of the aforementioned code that Amazon, Facebook and Google are quite unlikely to sign up for the code. Evident enough, since these tech leviathans may be sort of uncomfortable with the whole move that threatens the regulation of the internet and as a result, sure to interfere with creative freedom.

Amazon has straight-away distanced itself from signing the code, concluding that current laws are enough to fulfil the pursuit taken so draconianly by the IAMAI.

Netflix’s Big-Wig Compromise:

After having riled many sections with explicit content, both Netflix and Hotstar agreed to adopt the “best practices internationally” and have settled down with the guideline to self-censor their content they shall further broadcast. This means that there is a high chance that the most awaited sequel of the original Indian series “Sacred Games” shall go underground with any sort of explicit content, be it sexual or violent.

It’s common knowledge that both television and film content is regulated in India. However, over-the-top services such as Netflix and likewise have been free from such norms – The reason being that they are relatively new in the streaming hub!

Netflix which has been already under dark clouds with the lawsuit filed against it, over the portrayal of the former prime minister of India, late Rajiv Gandhi, in “Sacred Games” has, maybe, been intimidated and hence, bowed down to this code. Because, why not? What’s better than having a concrete code cloaking one’s already cold feet!

With the code being out in the open, fresh air of debate has been sparked. With actors, film-makers, critics and likewise pouring in their own opinions, this debate is only going to rage further, lest it goes unnoticed. Given the fact that content on the web is available to everyone, it is going to be quite an uphill climb to curate and control the content being broadcasted online. Again, one question that looms around is although one may try to check on streaming platforms to a certain extent, what about Youtube? Controlling the Indian streaming market may even come easy, but what are the odds against winning the global market?


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