I&B Secretary Says Players Should Be Cognisant Of Country’s Culture

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The Information and Broadcasting Secretary, Apurva Chandra, has asked over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms to be mindful of India’s culture and concerns while producing content. Speaking at an event in Mumbai, Chandra said that the government’s soft-touch regulatory approach towards the OTT streaming space has resulted in some content that is not desirable. He stated that the government is happy with the current approach, which emphasizes self-regulation of content, but content-related complaints are dealt with on three levels – the content producer, the industry body, and finally the I&B Ministry. Chandra also mentioned that the government is working on a National Broadcasting Policy, which would cover the OTT space. The I&B Secretary’s comments come in the midst of an ongoing debate around vulgarity and obscenity on OTT platforms. Despite the self-regulatory approach taken by the Indian government towards OTT platforms, there have been instances where streaming sites have faced run-ins with Indian authorities. Earlier this year, the Delhi High Court took notice of a similar matter involving a web series named ‘College Romance’ on Sony Liv and referred to the show as “obscene, lascivious, and profane.” It is worth noting that several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, IT Act, 2000, and IT Rules, 2021 restrict the transmission, distribution, circulation, and exhibition of obscene materials, putting the responsibility on intermediaries and platforms to ensure that no such material is hosted knowingly. In 2021, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on the popular web series ‘Mirzapur’ on Amazon Prime Video for alleged obscenity, vulgar depiction of women, and defaming the namesake city. However, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition and refused to ban the series, stating that it is up to individuals to exercise their discretion and make informed choices about what they want to watch.