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India Tells Streaming Players to Control Themselves, Talks Regulation

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is conducting discussions with streaming video platforms available in the country. It has requested them to exercise self restraint in terms of content.

“The old frameworks which were there for print and film or TV should not be applied. There needs to be a different treatment,”  said Atul Kumar Tiwari, Additional Secretary at the I&B Ministry, speaking on Sunday at Film Bazaar in Goa.

“The consensus was that there is a need for some amount of regulation, a code of conduct, some kind of avowal of checks and how you’d like to control yourself, and eventually it is self-restraint that is going to be very important,” he said. “But there is also a talk on who will do that and whether all the OTT providers should come together. They are not as yet.”

In January, Netflix and other leading Indian OTT platforms signed an agreement to self-regulate content in the booming Indian market. Amazon Prime Video was a notable absentee from the signatories. Tiwari acknowledged: “Some big names are not there in the list.”

“Maybe they should come together, so that there is some amount of enforcement, some respect for these guidelines and deterrent actions for those who violate those guidelines,” said Tiwari. “If the regulation takes shape ever, it will take shape around these broad lines only.

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“I’d like to request the OTT platforms to not go berserk in the sense of violence, sex, and other (things), which many of the creative people think that it is going to sell them. Ultimately what is going to sell them is good narrative, good picturisation, good quality stuff,” Tiwari said.

Tiwari acknowledged the possible costs of either self-regulation or government-mandated regulation.

“If you control (everything), you’ll control so many other things that you may not want to control,” he said at one point. He warned that over-regulation could stifle creativity.

India is poised to become a big market and a centre for content creation. I’d like India to take a lead in content creation, so (getting that right) is also very important.”

Other speakers said that dialog is productive. “(The ministry has) been very encouraging and very open, they don’t want to be regressive at all,” said Aparna Achrekar, programming head of OTT platform ZEE5 India. “They just want us to respect the laws of the land.”

While indicating that content that would upset political or religious sentiment is beyond Netflix’s remit, Aashish Singh, Director, Original Film for Netflix India, said, “We want to give freedom to creative producers to create the kind of content they want to create. And at the same time give the freedom to people to consume the kind of content that they want. So there is freedom on both sides.”

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