From cuts to deleting an entire episode, here’s how Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services are censoring its own content



  • Amazon Prime Videos deleted an entire episode of the CBS political drama Madam Secretary in its India version.
  • The deleted episode of Madam Secretary’s season 5 contained violent scenes against Muslims and other minorities in India — that could have possibly hurt sentiments.
  • In 2017, Netflix India released Angry Indian Goddess in the theatres with several cuts to avoid a backlash.
  • While India has strict guidelines on what’s going to be released in theatres nationwide it is yet to regulate OTT platform.

Last week, Amazon Prime deleted an entire episode of the CBS political drama Madam Secretary in its India version. The deleted episode of season 5 contained violent scenes involving Muslims and other minorities in India — that could have possibly hurt sentiments.

The episode also had dialogues regarding India-occupied- Kashmir — a political hot potato since independence and especially after the abrogation of Article 370. Hence, all the Indian users were dropped straight to the second episode of the series, breaking continuity.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has done something like this. Previously, it had either cut scenes from an episode of the Grand Tour or wiped out an episode from American Gods featuring cows — a holy animal for Hindus — that could have triggered controversy.

Prime isn’t the only OTT platform which is pivoting its content either. In 2017, Netflix India showcased the movie Angry Indian Goddess in the theatres with several cuts to avoid a backlash. However, after heavy user demand, it released the uncut version. Netflix said, “Our members reached out to us and we listened.”

Netflix’s popular Indian series — Sacred Games — landed in a lawsuit after several political parties alleged that the thriller drama has defamed India’s late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

OTT platforms which had niche users when it started had earlier broadcasted content which would have been otherwise censored. These shows which are ‘streamed’ and now ‘shown like TV shows; came with warnings ahead -- and allowed makers with a creative edge. However, this theory is diluted now that OTT platforms have gained popularity, and a few shows with cult following are coming under the radar of religious and political groups.

OTT platforms are supposed to self-censor like in the case of broadcasters as no regulations exist. Since many TV channels have been staying away from controversy, a need for laws was never felt. But OTT platforms are all set to breach them and now talks have been doing the rounds that the government might step in to regulate it.

Recently, all the leading platforms Netflix, Hotstar, SonyLiv, Zee5 held a discussion with the Indian government over self regulation policies. In January 2019 all the platforms reportedly came together to sign an industry code that will self-regulate online content in India. It means OTT platforms which started with ‘bold and uncensored’ content are toeing the invisible line set by invisible powers that govern the country.

Business Insider India contacted Netflix, Amazon Prime and Alt Balaji for comment and is waiting for a response.

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