MUMBAI: Welcoming government’s guidelines for OTT (over-the-top) platforms on Thursday, film personalities Ekta Kapoor, Priyadarshan and Vikram Bhatt said there cannot be creative freedom without responsibility, while producer Pritish Nandy said there was a need to tread carefully with the regulations.
Kapoor, Bhatt, Priyadarshan — all prominent names in Bollywood as producers and directors — said the guidelines are a “great step” by the government.
Nandy and Onir had a different take, with the former saying that it was crucial for the government to not allow a “heavy hand” to fall on OTTs, while the latter criticising the move.
The government on Thursday said a ‘code of ethics’ and three-tier grievance redressal mechanism would be applicable for OTT platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ Hotstar, news publishers and digital media.
Seeking to establish a soft touch regulatory framework, the government said OTT platforms would have to self-classify the content into five age-based categories – U (Universal), U/A 7+ (years), U/A 13+, U/A 16+, and A (Adult).
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said such platforms would be required to implement parental locks for content classified as U/A 13+ or higher, and reliable age-verification mechanisms for content classified as ‘A’.
Kapoor, a major Bollywood and TV producer who also runs OTT platform ALT Balaji, said the new regulations will provide a level-playing field.
“Heartening to see the new guidelines that provide a level playing field for digital news media and OTT platforms. #ResponsibleFreedom,” Kapoor tweeted.
Nandy, who has backed the International Emmy-nominated Amazon Prime Video series “Four More Shots Please”, said while grievance redressal mechanisms are fine, they rely on “very careful and circumspect actions by the authorities in power”.
“One mistake and the entire credibility of the mechanism can disappear. That is what we must understand and reckon with in these difficult times. Right now, it is just a beginning and the government ought to tread carefully if it wants to emerge as a global soft power,” Nandy told PTI.
“We are very good at what we do in India but till the foreign OTT platforms came in, we were stuck in that jejune Bollywood space. Now is the time to mature, grow and contend with the world, show everyone the creative genius of India,” he added.
Bhatt, who has made web shows such as 2017 horror “Gehraiyaan” and thriller franchise “Twisted”, said it is only fair to inform the audience about the kind of content they are about to watch.
“The government isn’t saying ‘do not make this. ‘All they’re saying is, whatever you make, there should be enough information out there for the viewers to know what kind of shows they’re watching,” he told PTI.
It is not censorship but merely a guideline to put in place a redressal system, Bhatt said.
“They’re asking to have an internal redressal system of three tier. Basically, they are asking us to handle our own problems and not bring it to them. I don’t see a problem in what has happened today. There’s no cause of concern as there’s no censorship,” he added.
“Heri Pheri” director Priyadarshan tweeted the guidelines “respect the artistic freedom while providing an avenue for redressal of citizen grievances.”
Onir, known for films such as “My Brother. Nikhil” and “I Am”, criticised the guidelines for not favouring content creators.”
“The death of cinema and good content. Stab the artist and keep everyone happy. The worst that a democracy can do to an artist is this regulation of OTT,” he said.
CBFC chairperson and lyricist Prasoon Joshi said responsible and accountable mechanisms will only bring in “more quality and maturity in a commercial creative industry”.
“Measures taken for a level playing field and empowering consumers would provide clarity for content creators of emerging platforms,” Joshi tweeted.
Some industry insiders tweeted their support using the hashtag #ResponsibleFreedom, previously also shared by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Javadekar.
BJP MP and actor Ravi Kishan also thanked the prime minister and said “#ResponsibleFreedom was the need of the hour.” Director Nila Madhab Panda, known for films like “I am Kalam” and “Kadvi Hawa”, said digital media must be used responsibly.
“Freedom comes with responsibility, digital media can do a lot of good if used correctly, great decision by the government, @PrakashJavdekar Sir @rsprasad sir, also giving a forum for users grievances is the correct way ahead.#ResponsibleFreedom #OTTGuidelines,” Panda wrote on Twitter.
Despite multiple attempts, prominent filmmakers, representatives of OTT platforms such as Netflix and Amazon remained unavailable for comment.
The OTT censorship has been a cause of concern among filmmakers, writers and actors for some time as many believe it will curtail their creativity on the new platform, which has witnessed a boom in India in recent years.
The streamers have been self-regulating their content as per Indian laws until recently but some of the shows have stirred controversy, most recently Amazon Prime Video’s show “Tandav”, which was accused of hurting religious sentiments.
A scene in the show led to multiple FIRs on directors, actors and the India head of the platform, prompting the streamer to chop the scenes from the political drama.
Other shows that have angered a section of people include Netflix’s “Leila” and “A Suitable Boy” and Amazon’s “Paatal Lok”.