OTT Regulations : A Critical Analysis

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Around Diwali, the I & B Ministry announced that it is going to take OTT (Over the top) & Digital news Services in India under its ambit. Earlier the services were under the purview of the Electronics & I.T. Ministry. This battle for regulation on the Digital content hosting websites is going on for two years now. Last November one official of MIB said that the Government was looking for some self-regulation mechanisms for the OTT industry. After several signals from the Government, fifteen OTT Platforms on September 15 OTT came together and formed Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) but the GOVT. in an unprecedented move decided to jump in the regulation mess.

Some said it was necessary to curb Hinduphobia or in simple terms, Anti-Hindu, Anti-India Propaganda, and some said it is an unnecessary burden on the platforms and the Directors and Writers who finally have found some space in the entertainment industry which is otherwise littered with nepo-kings. In a way both the sections are right but the decision in my view is not needed at all.

A Move for Nepotism 

“If I have money and I’m giving it to my son, then, every industrialist is a nepotist” This is the defence of nepotism by Javed Akhtar, in an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, in a show which has the only agenda of perpetuating nepotism because it interviews famous father-son or father-daughter. Who once very recently was trying to proclaim the Marxist credentials of Bhagat Singh. Dear Javed Saheb, you can’t be both a Marxist Sympathiser and a nepotist at the same point of time but the irony is that every socialist in India is both at the same point of time.  

Who can forget Kangana’s rant? who virtually employees her sister as her manager. What does it tell us? That nepotism is here to stay and poor Karan Johar is not the only culprit (even I was furious at him). Frankly speaking, it is their right to support

their loved ones and it will be totally undemocratic and morally wrong if we want to annihilate their free will. The problem of nepotism is much bigger when it tries to make a cartel and creates a monopoly. Which has been achieved in the case of the entertainment industry. Often in the case of the entertainment industry Government makes an autonomous body which has the responsibility to certify which content should go which should not. These bodies are often littered with those people of the respective Industry who are nearer to the Government of the day. I would urge you to search about the members of Censor boards under any dispensation and then a little research about their affinity either to any party or a leader or a family.

The members of these bodies are also often well connected among the Film & Television fraternity and they also have their vested interests among the powerful and the mighty of the industry, and that is why any film of big nepotistic Production houses rarely finds itself in the claws of Censor Board even after being totally against India or Hindus. As it was the case with Gunjan Saxena, the trailer and promos of which was certified by the Censor board showed the Indian Airforce in a very bad light (the first line of the trailer is “Pilot banana hai to fauji bano varna ghar me jakar belan chalo.”) Under a Government which claims to be nearer to the armed forces. In the movie “ Tiger Zinda Hai ” the fake case of 15 Pakistani nurses was introduced through which the director even tried to show the human side of ISI.

Whereas if you are a new director or producer who is either not well entrenched in any political lobby or have offended somebody powerful in the industry than you will see the wrath of red-tapism and that is how these bodies suppress talent(the curious cases of movies like Paanch and Black-Friday). Which political lobby is strong in the entertainment industry? For the answer open the Jio Saavan app and search the album of the movie “Buddha In a Traffic Jam.” Interestingly Jio is owned by Reliance or else you can see the reviews it has got by the big publishing houses.  

What about Anti-India, Anti- Hindu Content?

Have you seen the movie “ The Two Popes ”? The film is based on an episode that happened between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis in which Benedict is trying to persuade Francis to become the next Pope. It is also an attempt to exonerate the Vatican on the charges of Corruption and Sexual misconduct on the members of the church, or if I can put it diplomatically it provided us with a version of Vatican’s perspective (although no action) on Vatican leaks Scandal.

In a way, we can say that the film is a work of counter-narrative against the reports and documentaries and other films which were made on the Vatican leaks. In my view, those people who are applauding this move of regulation by the MIB are not able to understand the basic fact of ideological warfare that only Ideology can fight Ideology.

A Double-edged Sword

The Government hasn’t said anything on the nature of the regulation but most of the content creators are worried about censorship which in my view, is not redundant. Imagine what will happen to the B.J.P. Sympathetic content creators when congress comes to power? Then, the moral authority of defending the Freedom of Speech of any person would not favour the B.J.P. because they are bringing this new custom.

Many of you might say that this concern is based on the assumption of Censorship by the regulating body about which nothing has been said by the MIB. You may also say that my assumption may not be true at all. Okay, let us assume that the Government may not choose to censor at all but the track record of every Government on free speech is abysmal since the time of Nehru(Fun Fact- Censor Board came into being in 1951 by a provisional parliament). These kinds of powers are often misused by the governments. Can you imagine releasing a film like “The Accidental Prime Minister ” Under Congress?

Earlier the Government tried to regulate Porn after a very unnecessary order of the Supreme Court and banned 857 Porn websites and asked the service providers to block them, but what happened? According to a report of Deccan Chronicle published on August 30, 2020, the consumption of porn in India has spiked. In the age of the Internet, it is simply impossible to ban and regulate anything which is on the Internet(remember the leaks of censor copies of Movies like Great Grand Masti and Udta Punjab) until unless you are North Korea or China. The Government’s job is to govern not to decide what an adult can watch or not. The people should not be worried about any content which portrays them in a bad light instead they should raise their voice more and more. They only need to remember that saying simply ‘tu’ after the name of a Cheif Minister of a state (which we don’t endorse because after all, it is a Constitutional Post) hurts more than physical assaults.

Atal – Writer Bharat Bhagya Vidhata

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