In response to an RTI application, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting categorically said that they weren’t looking to censor online content.
In the RTI application (filed by me), the ministry was asked if it had the power to carry out censorship of TV shows and films distributed by services such as Hotstar and Netflix; and if not, whether the ministry was considering making rules that would allow them to do so. In their response, the ministry said that they do not have the power to censor any content online, and that they are “not pursuing the creation of a regulatory framework” that would allow them to have any online censorship powers.
India doesn’t have any regulations for censorship of films and TV shows online. In spite of this, large TV-on-demand players like Google Play and iTunes have been censoring all titles on their Indian catalogues. Netflix’s entry in the Indian market was the first time a large streaming company offered both Indian and non-Indian titles uncensored. Hotstar Premium was the second large player to do this, with uncensored shows and films from HBO and 20th Century Fox, among others.
A case was recently filed against Hotstar in the Delhi High Court alleging that the service was streaming “soft porn”, a claim that the service’s parent company Star India has denied. The High Court has asked the ministry to look into the claims, raising concerns that online censorship regulations might come about as a result. At least for now, the statement from the I&B ministry indicates otherwise.
Read the RTI application’s response below (screenshot):
Please provide the following information.
i) Whether MIB is in any way empowered to regulate/censor cinema or TV shows distributed online, eg. Netflix and Hotstar.
ii) Whether MIB is pursuing the creation of any regulatory framework that would allow censorship of films/documentaries/TV shows online.
iii) If so, details of such regulatory framework, or minutes of meetings where digital censorship has been discussed.
[The] Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) primarily certifies films for theatrical release in accordance with the provisions of [the] Cinematograph Act, 1952, [and the] Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983.
[The] Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has no control over films appearing online. At present, the Ministry is not pursuing the creation of any regulatory framework for censorship of content appearing on the internet.