DNA Special: Are OTT platforms abusing right to expression?

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In today’s show, we will tell you how the guidelines applied to news channels over news coverage doesn’t apply to OTT platforms and digital media, which affects the youth. News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) is an independent nine-member body set up by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) for the self-regulation of 24X7 news channels that are part of NBA. The body issues guidelines for covering sensitive news from time to time, which the news channels have to follow.

For example, channels cannot show an interview of a terrorist, pictures of dead bodies, blood. In serious cases, the victim’s identity is not disclosed.

This set of guidelines apply to all news channels, but no such rules are applicable to OTT platforms and digital media and that is why the viewers get to see and hear a lot of violence and abuses in online content. This in turn negatively affects the youth and children.

It has become important to decode this unlimited freedom of OTT platforms. First of all, we will tell you what is meant by the term ‘OTT platforms’. OTT means Over The Top. When the content of films and television is made available to viewers through the Internet without any cable network and satellite channel, it is called OTT.

The basis of this analysis is a Web Series released on 15 January ‘Tandav’. In this Web Series, there are allegations of humiliating Hindu deities. And the important thing is all this has happened in the name of freedom of expression. Imagine the freedom to express ideas, which is called the right to expression, how it transcends boundaries and justifies the insult of Hindu deities. It is said that this is an art and this art should be valued.

Many people are angry because of this, but a big thing here is that there was no riot in India. It can be said that in our country, it has become very easy to insult Hindu deities and the producer and director of this web series have been accused of similar.

This new web series has presented a very negative image of the country. The character of the country’s politician, hospital, school, police, university, administration, government, the prime minister is shown in such a way that you will lose your trust and confidence in the system. It has been shown that nothing good is happening in our country. In the series, a narrative has been portrayed by linking the names of characters to a particular religion which presents the wrong image of the country to the world.

However, a dispute has now arisen and an FIR has also been filed in Lucknow and people are demanding action against the producers and directors of this web series.

The News Broadcasting Standards Authority, or NBSA, is the organisation that regulates the content currently shown on news channels in India. There is the Press Council of India to regulate print media. For films, there is the Central Board of Film Certification which is called censor board. But there is no such organization to control the content on digital media and OTT platforms.

Censorship and regulation are two different things. Censorship is modesty and regulation an arrangement. There should be regulations for OTT platforms and digital media as well, because when the expression in the society gets molded in the form of speaking, writing and showing, then the biggest danger to this expression is democracy itself. It becomes a power over which no one has control.

The films and web series shown in the name of freedom of expression are starting to take the course of abuses and vulgarity. You may have inadvertently submitted a membership fee on many online streaming platforms to do this course. And we are confident that these streaming platforms will be streaming negative thoughts in your mind by misusing your time and money. Therefore, we want you to take a pledge to delete these thoughts from today.

Earlier, the films used to go from shooting to screening in a long reel, which was delivered to theaters in a box. That hundred of feet long reel was mechanically rotated, through which a bright light used to go on the screen and the scenes that were produced from that light were seen in those iconic films of Bollywood.

This journey started with Doordarshan, through which information and many TV serials reached people.

One of the serials was ‘Hum Paanch’, which was based on the story of India’s middle-class families. Similarly, serials like ‘Wagle Ki Duniya’, ‘Malgudi Days’, ‘Yatra’ and ‘Mungeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapne’ became very popular.

The Zee TV entered the industry after the entry of private satellite channels in India. In 1993, a serial was aired on ZEE TV, titled ‘Tara’. It was a clean serial with no vulgarity of any kind. There were no abuses. Then also the serial became quite a hit in India. Apart from this, there came serials like ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’, ‘Rajni’, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ and ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’, which created a different identity among the people.

And now this journey has reached OTT platforms, where vulgarity and abuses are treated as a test of success. Where it is believed that the more abuses, the greater the chance of getting success.

According to a study, while watching movies and web series on OTT platforms, the attention of people changes every 8 seconds. And in such a situation, abuses and obscenity are put into films to keep these people tied with them. This means, by taking money from you, some people decide how much abuses and vulgarity they have to sell.

It is quite easy to trade negative thoughts in India. Negative thoughts are easily valued in our country. And many companies make crores of rupees by selling them. But all this does not happen with the government’s money. Trading negative thoughts become a profitable deal with your money.

In the year 1994, a film ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ was released, in which, weddings with Indian customs and traditions were shown as an event. It is said that due to this film, the mentality of the people also changed and wedding business became a big market in India.

Now a similar hit formula is also being worked on OTT platforms. The formula is to offend religious sentiments, add as much vulgarity to the story, glamorize abuses in the name of dialogues and connect the whole story around a negative character.

However, we feel that OTT Platforms also have some powers which can become a very effective platform if the designer is free of ideas. So today we want to tell you some strong aspects of this as well.

First, OTT platforms have brought a new freshness to stories. A new style of telling and showing films has been born. New artists and writers have got the chance to present on the stage. And most importantly, because of this platform, a 10-hour long web series has been created, which probably no one had even imagined.

There was a time when it was said that the duration of films should be three hours. But in this era of web series, the theory of ‘The End’ is now over.

In India, it was announced recently that the control of all the OTT platforms will now be with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. The President of the country has also signed this notification and now the government keeps a close watch on whatever content you see online. A few days ago the government also made it clear in the Supreme Court that before controlling the news channels, digital media needs to be controlled.

OTT service providers’ accountability regarding content should be fixed. And to do this, the government has to make new laws and regulations. The government will have to ensure that when a complaint is made about any content of the OTT platform, then action should be taken in due time.

However, Ali Abbas has apologized after the controversy on the web series Tandav. He has shared his apology on Twitter. He has written that “the cast and crew did not have any intention to offend the sentiments of any individual, caste, community, race, religion or religious beliefs.”

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