On February 25, the Centre announced a fresh set of guidelines for online video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar, also known as OTT or Over The Top media services. As a result of these guidelines and subsequent Supreme Court's observations, OTT platforms have already become careful of what they produce and air on the internet.
The controversy has not been confined to ‘Taandav’. The second season of Amazon's hit show, ‘Mirzapur’, had also run into a controversy. Now. according to a report in the Mint, the second seasons of the spy thriller ‘The Family Man’, which stars Manoj Vajpayee, and ‘Paatal Lok’ have been cancelled after the government's strict guidelines and SC’s comments.
However, even though Mint quoted two people, who sought anonymity, Vajpayee and directors of The Family Man, Raj and DK, have rubbished the rumours. A spokesperson for Amazon, too, said that The Family Man will return “to the service in the summer of 2021”.
The Mint also reported that Amazon Prime, at least for now, has also shelved a show based on Kandahar hijack by filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj. The Amazon spokesperson refused to comment on Paatal Lok and the Bharadwaj show. Another programme, Kamathipura, by Disney+Hotstar, based on the red-light district in Mumbai for International Women’s Day also stands postponed indefinitely, according to the report.
One of the two people — a filmmaker currently working on a show — that Mint spoke to said that streaming platforms were instructing makers and creators of shows to be extra cautious and “basically avoid depicting (social and political) realities”.
The government's new regulations ask the OTT platforms to self-classify the content into five age-based categories — U (Universal), U/A, (people above 7 years), U/A above (13 years), U/A (above 16 years) and A (all the adults).
Apart from the categorisation according to the aforementioned age groups, the government now also expects websites to “implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher”. The new guidelines also instruct video streaming platforms to put in place “reliable age verification mechanisms for content classified as A”.
Besides these guidelines, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition of Aparna Purohit, the head of Amazon Prime Video India, last Thursday, said that some over-the-top (OTT) platforms were “also showing pornographic materials” on their websites. Purohit's anticipatory bail plea in connection with FIR's filed against the show ‘Taandav’ was rejected by the Allahabad High Court.
In its guidelines, the government also said that OTT platforms and digital media must also be sensitive to multi-religious content and shall exercise due caution when featuring activities, practices of any racial or religious group.
Siddharth Anand Kumar, vice-president, films and television, Saregama India, told Mint that if there were a censor board (like we have for films in India), it would still be possible to defend the films and shows. He also said that with the anonymity that the web grants, it was nearly impossible to track the age of viewers, at least as of now.
(Edited by : Abhishek Jha)