Centre urges OTT streamers to conduct content checks for obscenity and violencetext_fields
New Delhi: The Indian government has reportedly asked streaming services such as Netflix, Disney, and others to ensure independent review of their content for obscenity and violence before it is shown online.
A government document and sources revealed that the proposal was presented to the streaming platforms during a meeting at the Information and Broadcasting Ministry on June 20. However, the companies objected to the proposal, and no decision was reached during the meeting, reported Reuters.
According to the minutes of the talks, the ministry expressed concerns about obscene and vulgar content on over-the-top (OTT) platforms, as highlighted by Members of Parliament, citizen groups, and the general public. Although films in India are reviewed and certified by a government-appointed board, streamed content currently bypasses this process.
Officials in the meeting suggested the possibility of establishing an independent panel to review content and eliminate unsuitable material. The industry raised objections to the proposal, but the officials requested further consideration of the idea. The government emphasised the need for a proactive approach to ensure that streaming content, including international content, adheres to a code of ethics that discourages violence and respects religious sensitivities.
The meeting was attended by major streaming platforms, including Amazon, Disney, Netflix, Reliance's broadcast unit, Viacom18, and Apple TV. Neither the companies nor the ministry have responded to requests for comments regarding this matter.
The discussions signify increased scrutiny of India's rapidly growing streaming market. The proposal comes amid ongoing protests by streaming giants against a government order mandating the inclusion of 50-second tobacco health warnings in each piece of content. Additionally, it follows a government directive two years ago to establish self-regulatory bodies for addressing complaints about streaming content.
Industry insiders assert that India's streaming regulations are among the world's strictest. During an event in April, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur emphasised that streaming platforms should avoid promoting vulgarity and abusive content disguised as creative expression. Thakur acknowledged the rising number of complaints about obscene content and expressed the government's willingness to revise regulations if necessary.
Officials at the meeting proposed the formation of an expert panel to determine age ratings instead of platforms assigning ratings themselves. The streaming platforms assured authorities that they would implement robust parental controls and exercise caution regarding the suitability of international content.
Suhasini Maniratnam, representing the Digital Publisher Content Grievance Council, highlighted the potential negative impact of pre-censorship on industry growth and job opportunities. She emphasised the need to take specific actions against obscene and vulgar content, given the high volume of content being produced.