scorecardAfter Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hotstar plan to go down the path of self-censorship in India
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After Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hotstar plan to go down the path of self-censorship in India

After Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hotstar plan to go down the path of self-censorship in India
Tech3 min read

  • Netflix and Hotstar are reportedly planning to adopt an ‘unofficial code’ to censor their online video content.
  • Amazon Prime is already self-censoring as seen after the release of “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” where nudity was blurred out.
  • Netflix and Hotstar are already in hot water in India with PILs filed against them over sexually explicit content and gore.
To censor or not to censor has been the center of heated debates when it comes to creative freedom in India.

Even though Netflix and Hotstar don’t fall under the purview of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), they’re thinking about self-censoring to avoid trouble, according a report by Reuters.

Amazon Prime Video has already gone down the path of self-censorship. After the release of “Marvelous Mrs.Maisel” on December 5, all the scenes containing nudity were blurred out.

Netflix and Hotstar also plan on adopting an ‘unofficial code’ that will reportedly prohibit content that shows children ‘engaged in real or simulated sexual activities’, is ‘disrespectful’ of the Indian flag or ‘encourages terrorism’.

Regulation vs censorship

In an e-mailed statement to Business Insider, Netflix denied the network is censoring content, but only adhering to a set of ‘self regulation’ code along with six other online content providers that seeks to empower consumers to make ‘viewing choices that are right for them and their family’ among other goals.

However, a closer examination of the draft of the self-regulation code seen by Business Insider reveals that signatories to the code will be expected to comply with a clause, ‘Prohibited Content’, which appears to restrict the kind of content that can be produced by creators, including content which ‘deliberately and maliciously intends to outrage religious sentiments of any class, section of community’.

Here’s the ‘prohibited content’ code reproduced in full:

The oncoming threat of government regulation

This development comes at a time when Netflix is already fighting a legal battle over their first original series in India, “Sacred Games”. Implementing self regulation may be the easiest way for online streaming platform to hedge their bets against government censorship.

Last year, Justice For Rights Foundation, a local non-profit, filed a case against Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hotstar asking for government regulation over online content over concerns of sexually explicit content. The hearing is scheduled for February.

On December 6, the Bombay High Court ruled for Indian ministries to set up pre-screenings and committee to monitor web series after a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed against online streaming platforms raising concerns against gory content and sexually explicit scenes.

The PIL, filed by Divya Gontiya, stated, “The screening of pornographic contents, vulgar gestures and talks are overriding the Indian culture and morality.”

There’s already a certain level of regulation

While Netflix and Hotstar don’t openly censor content, they do have their own ratings in place. Every show online has an age-appropriate rating along with disclaimers that identify if there is nudity, foul language, or violence.

After that it’s up to viewer to apply their own discretion.

But implementing censorship will have a bigger impact on creators than on viewers. Online video streaming platforms have finally given Indian writers and directors the space to create content without having to look over their shoulders.

If audiences truly disapprove of a certain show for its violence or nudity, the film or web series is unlikely to be successful anyway.

See also:
Netflix is pushing back against a legal petition seeking the removal of an unflattering reference to an assassinated Indian Prime Minister in 'Sacred Games,' its first Indian original series

Netflix dominates internet traffic, just not in Asia

Indian mental health clinic just treated its first case of ‘Netflix addiction’