Is AIB Knockout issue unnecessarily overblown?

In light of the recent controversy surrounding AIB Roast, exchange4media reached out to industry experts who talk about what qualifies for the "right" content, who decides what is appropriate and what is not, the issue of freedom of speech in the digital arena and why there is a need to defend this space

e4m by Ankur Singh
Updated: Feb 11, 2015 9:13 AM
Is AIB Knockout issue unnecessarily overblown?

Comedy collective AIB’s insult comedy show AIB Knockout - Roast notched up a cumulative 4 million views within two days of its YouTube debut, of which the first million came within 12 hours. This was pretty unprecedented for any comedy show in India till date.

The three roast videos have created a lot of controversy, which in turn made the makers of the video put down the video from YouTube and issue a statement. In a recent development within AIB, their Facebook page shows an update saying they have apologised to the Archdiocese of Bombay and also had discussions with the members of the Christian community regarding certain remarks in the AIB Knockout.

India is increasingly seeing this new genre of comedy evolve, with groups such as AIB and The Viral Fever. Some of the humour may be crude, but the new breed of jesters are finding their way to the targeted audience that knows how to handle humour.

In light of the recent controversy, exchange4media reached out to industry experts to share their views on what qualifies for the “right” content, who decides what is appropriate and what is not, has happened to freedom of speech on the digital arena, and why is there a need to defend this space.

For Shubhradeep Guha,VP & Digital Marketing & Content Lead, SapientNitro, Freedom of speech is clearly paramount. “As long as it is not intended to harm anybody, and if it is not a security threat, I don’t see why any reason for restricting it. Any speech is information, and as a recipient, we have the right and ability to filter it out. Any other censorship is a slide down the hill. On the internet, the balance of power is loaded on the publisher. I feel everyone has every right to say what they wanted to say. This issue is completely overblown, and I was disappointed yesterday to see that these guys were made to apologise to a religious community,” he said.

“The need to defend this space is because unlike TV which is broadcast medium and has limited options of channels Digital is an opt-in media. if you don't like something then you should not watch it. Also freedom of speech is most profound on a media that was responsible for shaking up governments in certain countries. I think the internet should be left alone and we should let viewers decide what they should and shouldn't be watching,” said Rajiv Dingra, Founder & CEO - WAT Consult.

TV is broadcast with reach of over 200 million homes while internet has just about reach 200-300 millions users. There are at best 200 channels but the internet has millions of channels on YouTube with billions of pieces of content. “Clearly censorship would kill the growth of the medium. Web consumption is only going to increase and even if Government thinks of banning something the youth of India will figure a way to make that content accessible. I think maturity is in trusting the maturity of users and focusing energies on wrong use of the web where terrorism is used to create an inflammatory environment. The funny people should be left alone,” he pointed out.

“Currently it seems there is no clarity on jurisdiction and laws and one seems to be at the mercy of interpretation of the law rather than the law itself. Only time will tell on how law upgrades to handle different scenarios,” he added.

Another industry veteran, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “The need to defend this space is akin to the need to have state controlled media during the renaissance. The ones in “power” then felt losing control due to people having their voice and opinions spread without their approval. Similar to what the mentality is now “I need to control the internet”. Well, sadly you can’t.”

“We need to remember, internet in its truest form is democratic. One can choose what to put up, similarly one can choose what to see. Sure, do go ahead and report if some form of content harms your personal sensibilities, but we need to all grow up and start being outraged more about the immoral crimes, the rampant crime plaguing us,” he stated.

“Keeping up to date with the changes in the industry, meaning how our society is becoming progressive. Having a single yardstick to gauge all contents. It is time to move away from double standards. Video content will rule and since it need to either be popular or be monetized it will be governed by either of the following: 1) It will need to be a tear jerker, 2) it will need to be sexually charged/ suggestive, 3) it will need to be politically incorrect. 2 and 3 are easier to do and have a wider audience to appreciate. So you know what way it will go,” he opined.

“Who decides anywhere, across this country? The common people will outrage online, the armchair activists will start online petition and we will all have an opinion till the next week something new comes and all of this is a distant memory. Only the religious and political leaders will then be left to make it into an agenda to maximise their own gains,” he added.

exchange4media connected with few other industry experts, who all concur to the above opinions, however, declined to officially comment on the topic in their respective organizational capacities.

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