This issue emerges amidst recent developments concerning the IT Rules which requires streaming platforms like Netflix to take complaints from the public on the content that they stream.
Netflix received a complaint on the horror film Ghost Stories, and wrote an email to the production company asking for the “reasoning” behind a scene in the film, according to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s Instagram Story viewed by MediaNama on Tuesday evening. The complaint involved Kashyap’s segment on the four-part anthology, specifically around a scene where an expecting mother miscarries and is shown “devouring on her own fetus”. Ghost Stories was launched in January as a Netflix Original, produced by RSVP Movies.
“So it has started..a complaint came to Netflix on Ghost Stories. This is the end,” Kashyap complained in a caption on the Story, which is no longer visible on the filmmaker’s profile. Netflix told MediaNama that as this was a partner-managed production, it reached out to the production company (RSVP Movies) to share the complaint.
The complaint was likely submitted to Netflix as a grievance under the Information Technology (Intermediary Liability and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021. A description of the complaint sent by Netflix to the film’s production company is included in this story. The film is rated for 16 year-olds and above in India, Netflix’s second most mature rating, as of the publication of this report, and contains content descriptors warning viewers of violence, sex, and bad language.
Why does this matter?
This is the first content-related grievance that Netflix has publicly been seen considering under the IT Rules. The complaint already indicates a few points:
- First, even with mature films, complaints about content will be deliberated in-depth for certain aspects outside the bounds of the IT Rules (while the Rules require content descriptors, they don’t require trigger warnings for individuals who may have undergone specific traumatic experiences).
- Second, it appears that Netflix is involving creators themselves in this process: not the worst idea in theory, but judging by Kashyap’s reaction, it appears that creators may not appreciate the partial onus of defending their content after it is out.
The ramifications of this process will likely not be very public, but what is seemingly clear is that this creates pressure on Netflix and content creators to feel like content on their platform needs to be justified. It is additionally distressing that complainants are making determinations on what is and isn’t necessary for the story of a film.
Text of complaint summary
The following is the text of the portion of the complaint summary that was shared by Kashyap.
Complaint: The complainant has raised an issue on one film of the subject matter anthology. The Complainant has a concern with Anurag Kashyap’s film. Timestamp 1:22:00 to 1:17:15 are highlighted by the complainant wherein the central character is shown devouring on her own fetus from her miscarriage. The complainant thinks that this scene is not required for the story and if the creators wished to add such a scene then there should have been a trigger warning added for the females who have gone through the trauma of miscarriages.
We wanted to know your thoughts on this complaint. I will also need your help in understanding the creator’s reasoning behind adding this scene i.e. what was the message that was trying to be conveyed to the viewer through this scene. — email shared by Anurag Kashyap (emphasis author’s)
What the IT Rules require
The Rules require streaming services to take complaints from the public on the content that they stream. If complainants are not justified, they can approach a second tier, a self-regulatory body of which the streaming service is a member. Next, the complaint is heard by a committee chaired by an eminent personality. In Netflix’s case, this is the Grievance Redressal Board of the Internet and Mobile Association of India’s Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC), chaired by Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri. If the complainants are still not satisfied with the self-regulatory body’s ruling, they can appeal directly to an inter-departmental committee of the government, which can order streaming services to take the content down, and even consider cases forwarded from other ministries on its own.
Rival self-regulatory body starts hearing appeals: The IAMAI’s DPCGC isn’t the only self-regulatory body in play. The Digital Media Content Regulatory Council (DMCRC), established by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, largely represents streaming services owned by traditional broadcasters, like Hotstar, Zee5, Sony LIV, and SunNXT. The DMCRC heard its first appeal on July 6 and dismissed it the next day. The complaint alleged that a web series’ trailer portrayed Sikhs negatively. The DMCRC dismissed the appeal as without merit, ruling that a trailer is only in place to pique viewer interest, and such conclusions cannot be drawn from the show itself.
- The First Ruling By OTT Self-Regulatory Body Was For A Show That Hadn’t Even Released
- IAMAI Sets Up Digital Publishers Council For OTT Platforms
- IAMAI Appoints Justice Sikri As Chair Of Streaming Grievance Body; Apple And Ullu Join DPCGC
- Summary: Information Technology Rules 2021 and OTT streaming services
- 5 bullets dodged by OTT streaming services in the Intermediary Rules
- OTT streaming services now have an almost identical legal framework to cable TV in India