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During the COVID-19 induced lockdown, online streaming platforms flourished. With theatres shutting down and people confined to their homes, the primary sources of entertainment were Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon prime, Disney+ Hotstar, ALT Balaji, Voot, Zee5 etc. With more people using these services, there have also been strong calls made for regulating the content streaming on these OTT Platforms.

Web series ‘Mirzapur’ (Amazon Prime) has been accused of defaming the town of the same name in Uttar Pradesh, while the adaptation of Vikram Seth’s ‘A Suitable Boy’ on Netflix and Amazon Prime’s ‘Tandav’ have received backlash for hurting religious sentiments and mocking Hindu deities. These controversies have raised many concerns and led authorities to consider censoring content streamed on OTT platforms. Content on OTT platforms is not regulated by any governmental body, like the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) for the movies released in theatres.


A large number of people are opposing the idea of censoring OTT platforms, especially those who belong to the creative field. Censorship of OTT platforms, like movies in theatres, is going to restrict creativity. The freedom provided by online streaming services leads to creation of varied content, which provides viewers with exposure and helps them develop a broader horizon of thought. Also, OTT platforms are based on the concept of ‘Subscription on Demand’, where people pay and watch movies or series as per their interests and interpret them in their own way. Censorship leads to creation of the same content over and over again and often stagnates thinking, thus restricting people’s growth. Further, subscribing is a conscious choice on the consumer’s part – so they should be allowed to view what they wish to view. These platforms have also provided young artists an opportunity to showcase their talent – their ideas are unconventional and they do not have the resources to produce content on other mainstream media. Censorship will have an adverse impact on such content.


While the content creators are not in the favour of this move, there is a need to regulate such platforms as they expose people to content which may not be age-appropriate. Although viewer discretion is advised, there is no way to ensure it; therefore, this is the only way to prevent minors from viewing adult content. Also, media plays a huge role in shaping pubic opinion, thus, any irresponsible content or misrepresentation of facts on these platforms may change the course of an individual’s thought process. Artists create content that will bring more viewership and do not have any interest in inculcating values in people. With people spending so much time of their day on these platforms, they have a tendency to imbibe the qualities of the characters that are portrayed. The content on these platforms is often made in bad taste, as there is no regulation or censorship.


It is believed that censorship of OTT platforms will interfere with the ‘Right to Free Speech’ guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution. However, ‘reasonable restriction’ can be imposed on this freedom by the state under Article 19(2) on certain grounds, especially if an activity threatens public order, decency or morality and sovereignty – this has a subjective interpretation. It cannot be denied that the media has played a significant role in changing people’s perspectives and modernising thoughts. Since media’s content has such a significant impact on people’s minds, its regulation becomes a sensitive issue and thus a statutory regulating body or government’s active intervention may not be a suitable resort. Instead of censoring these platforms, the government can promote ‘responsible cinema’ in its own capacity. While people should not be stopped from viewing content they wish to view, content creators should be mindful of the messages they are imparting through their work keeping in mind their impact, and the diverse population of viewers that is being catered to. Censorship is not a very comprehensive solution.

By Manasvi Mathur


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