Netflix, Amazon Prime May Soon Face Censorship In India


    The online-based video streaming services Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have seen an explosion in their popularity across the country. This achievement seems to have attracted the attention of the Government, as it considers potential censorship over such platforms. The current laws allow for the moderation of TV and Cinema; there is no provision per se for the restriction of content on the growing online platforms.

    The fear of censorship in India had forced the online platforms Netflix and Hotstar to sign self-regulatory codes in January, which would act as a guideline for the companies’ content. The exercise seems to have been futile as a recent flurry of court cases and police complaints have triggered this sudden interest of the government on this matter.

    Available to watch over several devices, online streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are an unorthodox alternative to the mainstream media content.

    The main point of contention for the Government officials seems to be the lack of uniformity of these self-regulatory codes. The codes, as a Government official said, are not the same for everyone, and this is a problem the Government is looking to solve.

    Netflix’s first Indian original series ‘Sacred Games’ was on the receiving end of a court challenge last year, over the remarks made in the series about a former Prime Minister. The case was dismissed later on.  Another Netflix original by the name of ‘Leila’ has received court challenges over offensive and derogatory remarks. Amazon’s ‘Mirzapur’ and ‘The Family Man’ seem to be facing the same concerns.

    Netflix’s original series ‘Sacred Games’ received a court challenge in the Delhi High Court.

    What this censorship would look like is still unclear. One way to go would be for the content to obtain certain approvals before going live. Or the content might be certified by a certification board, like the cinema. Another concern that the Government seems to be raising is the fact that most of this online content does not carry the mandatory anti-tobacco and health warnings in the scenes where smoking and drinking have been depicted.

    How Popular Are Netflix, Amazon Prime, And Other Online Platforms?

    The recent boom in the usage of mobile data in India has lead to the rise of Netflix-like online streaming platforms. The on-demand service that these platforms offer makes them all the more attractive for customers. According to a report by the PwC, India will be amongst the top 10 markets worldwide for online streaming services by 2025.

    Recently the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) and the Ministry for Electronics And Information Technology (MEITy) had held a meeting to discuss regulating and certifying online content. This is where Amazon had declined to sign the petition and asked other companies to do so too.

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