A sense of ennui was really beginning to take over the Indian entertainment industry half a decade ago when the OTT platforms finally arrived and duly transformed the content scene. From cult TV shows like Friends to immersive documentaries and reality shows, suddenly everything was at our easy disposal. In no time, binge-watching became a thing, 'Netflix and chill' a common catchphrase, and even before we could catch our breath Indian web shows were getting nominated for Emmy’s.
To say that the OTT platforms have transformed how we create and consume content in India would be a gross understatement. Not just the audience, but also for a number of artists and talents, these platforms literally transformed lives. However, the story has a sinister twist now. On Wednesday, the central government of India announced that the digital media in India would now come under the purview of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I & B). This includes online news platforms and video content streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hotstar, and Netflix.
The I & B ministry basically can now control and regulate the digital content and this isn't sitting well with the Indian OTT audience. Since yesterday, #OTTCensorship has been trending on Twitter as they discuss the kind of implications that this move will have on the content that's currently available on these platforms. People are also livid with the idea of art and entertainment now going under Government control.
The netizens are also calling out the blatant hypocrisy of the situation by circulating what supreme court Justice Chandrachud has to say in the recent Arnab Goswami controversy after the journalist and his channel were accused of promoting government propaganda. Commenting on the matter, the Justice had said earlier this week that this is not a case of terrorism and you don't have to watch the channel if you don't like it.
The netizens are thus questioning the very same premise as they try to understand the need to regulate the online content. They want to understand that if we are asked to not watch a channel if it offends us then why do we need the central government to regulate the digital content for us now?
Meanwhile, another faction of Twitterati has made peace with the eventual fate of OTT in India and is making the best of the current situation with memes and sarcastic tweets. They have already started anticipating a lot of "sanskaari" content as they envision the future of OTT in India while some of them wonder if Jioflix or Patanjali Prime is the next 'big thing' coming our way. Here's what they have to say:
Given that OTT remains a rather new content medium, so far we had no concrete rules or laws to regulate these platforms. With the government's decision to make films and audio-visual programs available by online content providers and also get “news and current affairs content on online platforms”, the biggest challenge before these platforms would now be to keep a check on the quality.
Also, the latest content as we were hitherto getting might get delayed as the platforms would now have to seek permission from the I & B ministry for the content that they seek to stream. This is a huge roadblock given that a lot of content that is currently being streamed on these platforms would have been censored if they had to seek approval from the censor board of India. All in all, the future of OTT content in India is on a precipice right now and we are really holding our breaths to see what comes next.
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