The new directions from the government for regulation of content on OTT platforms received a mixed reaction from the entertainment industry.
There cannot be creative freedom without responsibility, according to producer Ekta Kapoor and directors Priyadarshan and Vikram Bhatt, who were among the handful of voices to welcome the government's guidelines for over-the-top (OTT) platforms on Thursday.
Kapoor, who also runs an OTT platfom Alt Balaji, said the new regulations will provide a level playing field to everyone.
Filmmaker Priyadarshan, known for films such as "Hera Pheri" and "Hungama", called it "a great step" by the government, while "Ghulam" director Bhatt said the new guidelines should not be confused with censorship.
Director Onir, however, said the new guidelines did not favour artistes.
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 for these entities, the government said OTT platforms (like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video) 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'.
"Heartening to see the new guidelines that provide a level playing field for digital news media and OTT platforms.#ResponsibleFreedom," producer Ekta Kapoor tweeted.
Bhatt, who has made several web series including 2017 horror "Gehraiyaan" and thriller franchise "Twisted", said the need to inform the audience about the kind of content they are about to watch is only fair.
"The government is asking to not shock the viewers. 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 show they're watching."
Bhatt said the government hasn't brought in censorship but merely put in place a redressal system.
"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."
The director said this system should be extended to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) which censors in the name of certification.
"This is the way the CBFC should function. If we can do this on OTT—which directly reaches people—why can't we do this for films? It's time to bring that regulation in films instead of opposing what happened today."
Some industry insiders tweeted their support using the hashtag #ResponsibleFreedom, previously also shared by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Javadekar.
Priyadarshan said the guidelines on streaming platforms were a "great step" by the government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"#OTTGuidelines announced today, respect the artistic freedom while providing an avenue for redressal of citizen grievances. #ResponsibleFreedom," the director tweeted.
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.
Filmmaker Onir criticised the new 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.
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".
(With PTI inputs.)
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