An Over the Top or OTT platform is a streaming media service offered directly to viewers via the Internet. OTT bypasses cable, broadcast, and satellite television platforms, the companies that traditionally act as a controller or distributor of such content. Over-the-top services are typically accessed via websites on personal computers, as well as via apps on mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets), digital media players (including video game consoles), or televisions with integrated Smart TV platforms. There are some OTT services which require the video to be downloaded first and then played such as iTunes while the other services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hotstar etc. offer streaming of the video even without being downloaded. However, there has been a lot of controversy regarding the regulation of these platforms. We shall have a look at the same further in this article.
Regulation of OTT Platforms
In March, 2020, the minister of information and broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar had a meeting with the representative heads of the OTT giants including Netflix, Amazon, Voot, Hotstar, SonyLiv, MX Player any many more. In the meeting, these platforms were given a 100-day deadline to abide by the rules set by Digital Content Complaint Council (DCCC). However, this ultimatum did not go well with most of the platforms. Platforms like Netflix and MX Player had asked for an extension in the deadline to decide upon the policy. A few have agreed with the guidelines too but the major fraction of these platforms did not like the idea of censorship and had refrained from signing the agreement. Amazon Prime was also one of the platforms who refused to comply with DCCC.
The Case of Amazon’s Pataal lok
Amazon Prime released a series called “Pataal Lok” which is a police investigation-based thriller inspired by the traditional concepts of Svarg, Dharti and Paatal. As mentioned earlier, Amazon had refused to abide by the guidelines of DCCC. Now, Pataal Lok faced a lot of criticism for allegedly showing Hindus in a bad light. The show was accused of hurting the religious sentiments of people. The netizens found the content to be ‘Hinduphobic’ and it was slammed for the same on social media platforms. Not only the Hindus, the Sikh community was also hurt by some episodes of the series and they decided to boycott it as well.
However, this is not the first time that an India web-series was slammed for demeaning any religion. With this controversy, the debate about censorship of the content on OTT platforms has bee reignited. The public demands the regulation of these platforms by the government. Pataal Lok in a way has brought hellfire not only on Amazon, but also on all the OTT platforms which had earlier refused to comply with DCCC. The Centre has been mulling the idea of a regulatory board for OTT platforms since 2019, having multiple discussions with key players in Mumbai and New Delhi in October.With #BoycottPaatalLok netizens are once again urging the government to step in and censor OTT content.
In the words of Harish Bijoor, “OTT is meant to be a niche platform as opposed to any mass media of any kind, allowing it to accept standards which are different from mass media. However, when OTT becomes as popular as mass media does, then it needs to be more responsible and need to look at self-censorship.” As of now, the government has not intervened on the matter. The OTT platforms are following the self-regulation when it comes to the matter of content. The urgent need is to find a midway; completely banning the content would be injustice towards creativity while allowing the content to be streamed without any censorship would do nothing but agitate hate between communities.