The 21st century has been eventful for the cinema industry. Some rapid changes have taken place in it, both to its advantage and disadvantage. The emergence of various video platforms has increased their popularity among the masses, especially young adults. This growth was seen at a greater rate due to the pandemic, where all the cinemas that are having theatrical screenings of movies were temporarily replaced by OTT platforms where one can watch recently released movies even by sitting at home, which is more convenient. Now the question arises: is OTT censorship by the Indian government required?
At the start of the decade, theatrical screening of moves was the source of significant revenue in the film industry, accounting for about 60-70 percent of the revenue, and other sources generated the rest. But now, the scenario has completely changed as the demand for video streaming platforms has increased exponentially. People prefer these types of media because of the low cost of the internet, cheaper mobile devices, Wi-Fi sticks, etc., which are easily accessible by ordinary people. These platforms have reduced the dependency of the public on the theatres as all the entertainment content is just at the fingertip.
Web series are one of the most demanding aspects of these platforms. According to recent statistics, 40 percent of the masses who use these platforms as a source of entertainment prefer web series over others. Around 20 percent watch movies, and 13 percent watch news and other sports-related stuff. These platforms are well-known among viewers for several reasons: they are a significant source of entertainment in today’s world, the most important of which is their mobility. Moreover, it is pretty flexible to use these platforms, as there is no time restriction and people can watch them at their leisure, such as while traveling, during lunch hours, etc. Since most of the population in India is made up of working people who lack time, these platforms are preferred by them. Also, the cheap cost of data has enabled the user to watch web series and other content online at their own pace.
The interface these platforms provide is user-friendly and does not require installing malicious software. All it needs is a smartphone and a good internet connection. A person can open these platforms and watch whatever they wish. One must invest a lot of time and energy to go to a theatre to watch a movie, but on this platform, one can binge-watch any show by sitting at home. One does not have to wait for any scheduled times on a day when a particular show will be available to watch on them. They are cost-effective, as the monthly subscription costs less than the setup box. One can also get to know about the new and popular releases and sometimes get a public rating of the movie, which enables them to decide whether it is worth their time. A person can explore a wide range of genres, such as horror, comedy, classic romance, pictures, and various other themes, all for a single subscription fee.
We already know that a government authority called the Censorship Board of India determines whether the content is suitable for the public to watch. It can ban certain explicit content, limit the amount of violence, or hurt the sentiments of a particular segment of society. But the major limitation here is that the government can only control the shows appearing on television or in theaters, not on these OTT platforms. The government’s surveillance of them was reduced as a result of the personalised subscription-based content. These OTT platforms are self-regulated. Though some media have some amount of censorship, most of them are still unregulated. The freedom from the regulations imposed by the government gives them the authority to stream whatever content is in demand, even if it is abusive and obscene. According to the regulations set up by the Cinematograph Act of 1952 and cable TV networks, specific advertising codes must be followed during broadcasts. Still, these rules only cover web series content. Therefore, there should be an independent governing body to set up rules so sensitive content can be broadcast better.
Censorship plays a crucial role in keeping the content on the OTT platform free from any extreme vulgarity that might affect people badly. It protects the freedom of speech and expression while watching a particular web series. Censorship and regulation can keep people, especially children, away from violent content and sexually manipulating content that might hurt their lives and mindset at such a young age. It also protects people from being victims of abuse, violence, etc., because if uncensored content keeps circulating on the internet, it might lead to changes in the behaviours of children that might be harmful to society. It also prevents any offensive display by a particular religious group that might cause a disbalance in communal harmony. It also reduces crime and violence in society because young adults who use these platforms for entertainment are sometimes influenced by the violent and sexually explicit content displayed on them. Censorship will also improve the quality of content used in web series because it will remove all the vulgar content that the creator uses to attract young adults and force the content creator to be more creative to make their work watchable by a wider audience. It will also reduce the unfair advantages enjoyed by OTT platforms compared to traditional television.
We must agree that censorship has some disadvantages too. It affects the freedom and expression of the creator. It will also affect the release of content, which is the present issue in society and needs to be addressed just because it is taboo, depriving the public of information related to social problems. Since the censorship board is an authority under the influence of the government, sometimes it is guided by political interests. Often, content that reveals the truth about the ills of politics is censored to influence the voter. Therefore, OTT platform censorship by the government can make the public see things according to their will, which makes the general population biased . Despite many trials, there are still many loopholes in enforcing censorship since it has yet to be able to censor violent and explicit content entirely. It also affects the creator’s creativity, which is quite detrimental to the growth of the entertainment industry.
The OTT platform has been given the right to express itself fully, reaching the total distance possible and breaking all the barriers of age, sex, caste, and creed. However, rights come with responsibilities, and these platforms are used to create content that does not harm society, particularly young minds, who constitute a significant portion of the population.