The Washington Post recently published a detailed article that talked about a “culture of self-censorship” in the streaming industry in India over the last four years. The article on November 20, 2023 discussed how streaming platforms like Netflix and Prime dropped multiple proposed and on-going projects dealing with religion, caste, owing to political pressure. This includes documentaries that talked of political incidents like the Emergency period in India or a three-part adaptation of ‘Maximum City,’ an award-winning book by Suketu Mehta. However, apart from providing a historical account of the state of streaming in India, the article also acts as an excellent example why there are certain concerns around the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2023.
A regulatory Bill for the digital times: The draft Broadcasting Services (Regulation) Bill, 2023 seeks to replace the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 and thus bring streaming and broadcasting services like Disney+ Hotstar, Netflix, JioCinema, etc. under its purview. It also talks of establishing Content Evaluation Committees (CECs) that will certify which content complies with the new multi-layered regulatory system. There are 10 other concerns that MediaNama has listed in the context of this Bill, however with regards to censorship, let us focus on the certification requirements.
CECs will give legal sanction to government censorship: The platforms streaming content will be required to set-up the CECs, consisting of people from “different social groups,” within 180 days of the Bill coming into force. However, the criteria for this diversity, the minimum quorum required to create the committee and “other details” will be prescribed by the government. Considering that the Washington Post talked at length about the influence of the current ruling regime on OTT platforms, there are concerns that such CEC could end up censoring content further. Essentially the Bill could legally sanction to the government to axe content that it feels doesn’t give a “positive image of India and its culture” – activities that the government is already doing. For film-makers like Anurag Kashyap, who have spoken out against this form of censorship in the Washington Post, this provision in the Bill is a huge point of concern.
- Here’s How The Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2023, Impacts Streaming Services
- How Many Grievances Were Logged By Online Streaming Platforms Under IT Rules, 2021 In October 2023?
- Attend Our Briefing Call: Broadcast Bill & Online Streaming
- QuickTake: Can Online Streaming Services Avail Statutory License Provisions Under India’s Copyright Act?
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