“I&B ministry won’t censor online video content, for now”
“After Amazon, Netflix said to have agreed to censor its content in India”
“Amazon opposes voluntary censorship code move mooted by industry”
These are just a handful of the headlines that video streaming services in India have managed to make in the last few months. Will they? Will they not? The question of censorship in online media has been a daisy oracle for over six months now. All this amid political controversies, risk of state interventions and growing legal complaints against the “insensitive, uncensored and explicit” content put up by online video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hotstar in the absence of any law to regulate them in any way since these services don’t fall under the ambit of existing laws.
Putting all the speculation of voluntary censorship to rest, the leading video streaming companies in India have finally decided to go for self-regulation and say no to censorship. Well, largely. All these companies have been working as part of a sub-committee under the industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) for a few months now, to develop a best-practices code for curated online video platforms – a working copy of which has been reviewed by The Ken.
In the code, which has nine signatories so far—Netflix, Hotstar, Voot, Times Internet, Eros, AltBalaji, Zee, Arre and Sony—video streaming platforms have said no to censorship. Instead, the companies have agreed to place easy filters such as content descriptions, information on the nature of the content and creating different categories for consumers to be able to choose content that is appropriate for themselves and their families. The idea is to protect consumer choice and agency, to protect “freedom of speech and expression”. The companies are likely to release the code later this week.
“The primary objective of self-regulation is to keep the government away and do something about the ongoing complaints before the state does,” said a person aware of the developments at IAMAI, on the condition of anonymity. Taking into account all the recent public interest litigations against some of the content, video streaming platforms are also going heavy on grievance redressal mechanisms.
With the lines between telecommunications and media blurring, and urban consumers increasingly moving onto video streaming platforms, it makes sense for the $500-million video streaming market—expected to touch $4.5-5 billion by 2023, according to a report of Boston Consulting Group—to regulate itself. Especially, when the demand for holding the platforms accountable has been growing exponentially.