The Indian government is reportedly deliberating about the need to introduce regulatory frameworks for online content providers, due to heightened concerns over the uncensored nature of content currently on offer.
While film and TV certification bodies already moderate public content in India, the country's laws currently do not cover online streaming platforms, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar.
Concerns around potential censorship led Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Arre, SonyLIV and other companies to sign a self-regulatory code of best practice in January, but Amazon did not join in, stating that “the current laws are adequate”.
Now, a senior government source told Reuters: “The self-regulation isn’t the same for all, which is raising a concern ... the directions are clear, we have to see how to address the problems.”
In addition, the government official said there was concern about disparity in how some content appeared on different mediums. Smoking scenes in Bollywood movies on Amazon and Netflix in India, for example, do not carry mandatory anti-tobacco textual warnings.
Netflix’s first Indian original series, “Sacred Games”, faced a court challenge last year over “offensive scenes” and derogatory remarks about a former Indian prime minister, but the case was later dismissed.
Complaints also have been raised by what has been perceived as ‘anti-national’ and ‘anti-Hindu’ content in shows. In May this year, the Supreme Court sought the central government’s views on a petition that called for regulation of content on video streaming platforms, renewing a debate on censorship and freedom of expression.
The petition sought guidelines or legislation to regulate content to block what it described as sexually explicit, vulgar and violent content.
The special leave petition was filed by an NGO called Justice for Rights Foundation (JRF) against a decision of the Delhi High Court, which had dismissed its public interest litigation calling for censorship in February.
These on-going concerns prompted talks between India's Information & Broadcasting and IT ministries on the notion of a regulatory framework for such content providers.
However, Reuters’ government source added that it is possible that the government will decide against any regulation. Several other options are being explored such as a self-regulation code without official interference, a government-monitored code or measures requiring platforms to obtain content approval in advance.
Sourced from Reuters, The Economic Times, The Week India