From the Viewsroom

Time to regulate OTT content

Richa Mishra | Updated on August 18, 2020

Is self-regulation enough to keep online content platforms in line?

“The film has been made using creative liberties and dramatising the events for cinematic expressions …” reads the disclaimer as Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl opens. But is this enough to allow one to deviate from facts when showing a real-life story? How far can film-makers go in ‘dramatising’ events?

Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal was recently quoted asking the entertainment industry to self-regulate OTT channels. This was not an unusual statement; the issue has been under discussion for some time now.

The Kargil Girl is the true story of now retired Indian Air Force combat pilot Gunjan Saxena, which is alluring enough by itself. But no sooner did it hit Netflix than the IAF cried foul, alleging unfair portrayal of the institution. Social media was flooded with posts saying cinematic licence and creative freedom cannot be stretched over set rules and protocols of institutions.

Protocol demands that film/serial-makers get the Defence Ministry’s approval before creating content related to the armed forces. They have to submit the plot. And the producers of Gunjan Saxena — Dharma Productions and Zee Studio — did adhere to this. Once the content is ready, it has to be screened for the Services; if changes are suggested, they are expected to be adopted. Here, the IAF did want some tweaks, which the producers decided to ignore. In this case, the IAF can file a defamation case.

But the film has been released on an OTT platform, which is unregulated in India, so little can be done. The next best thing the IAF could do was write to the Censor Board and say the film should not hit the theatres. But the damage has been done. In fact, in January last year, Hotstar, Voot, Zee5, Arre, SonyLIV, ALT Balaji, Netflix and Eros, now also known as online curated content providers (OCCPs), had voluntarily signed a self-regulatory Code of Best Practices under the aegis of the IAMAI.

But where does the buck stop, with the content provider or the platform? Is self-regulation working? When portraying defence services, shouldn’t there be clear dos and donts?

Published on August 18, 2020

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