Mixed signals emanate from film industry on new OTT guidelines

Film personalities like Ekta Kapoor, Priyadarshan, and Vikram Bhatt have said that creative freedom comes with responsibility

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Feb 26, 2021 1:48 PM

Bollywood has welcomed the government's guidelines for over the top (OTT) platforms which mandate self-classification of content based on age and three-tier grievance redressal mechanism.

Film personalities like Balaji Telefilms' Ekta Kapoor, Priyadarshan, and Vikram Bhatt have said that creative freedom comes with responsibility. Producer Pritish Nandy and film and TV director Onir said there was a need to tread carefully.

The government said that the rules about digital media and OTT focus more on in-house and self-regulation mechanisms whereby a robust grievance redressal mechanism has been provided while upholding journalistic and creative freedom.

It also stated that the guidelines have been framed keeping in mind the difference between viewership in a theatre and television as compared to watching it on the Internet.

The OTT platforms 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). The 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”.

The platforms will also have to establish a three-level grievance redressal mechanism which will have different levels of self-regulation. These are Self-regulation by the publishers, Self-regulation by the self-regulating bodies of the publishers, and Oversight mechanism.

Kapoor, whose company Balaji Telefilms runs the OTT platform ALT Balaji, said that the new regulations will provide a level-playing field. “Heartening to see the new guidelines that provide a level playing field for digital news media and OTT platforms. #ResponsibleFreedom,” Kapoor tweeted.

Nandy, whose Pritish Nandy Communications has produced the International Emmy-nominated Amazon Prime Video series Four More Shots Please, said grievance redressal mechanisms are fine, however, they rely on “very careful and circumspect actions by the authorities in power”.

“One mistake and the entire credibility of the mechanism can disappear. That is what we must understand and reckon with in these difficult times. Right now, it is just a beginning and the government ought to tread carefully if it wants to emerge as a global soft power,” Nandy told PTI.

“We are very good at what we do in India but till the foreign OTT platforms came in, we were stuck in that jejune Bollywood space. Now is the time to mature, grow and contend with the world, show everyone the creative genius of India,” he added.

Bhatt, who has helmed web shows like Gehraiyaan and thriller franchise Twisted, said that the government has not issued any diktat on the kind of content that can be produced. "All they’re saying is, whatever you make, there should be enough information out there for the viewers to know what kind of shows they’re watching,” he told PTI.

By mandating the establishment of an internal redressal system, the government has asked the industry to handle its own problems and not drag them into it. "I don’t see a problem with what has happened today. There’s no cause of concern as there’s no censorship,” he added.

Heri Pheri director Priyadarshan tweeted the guidelines “respect the artistic freedom while providing an avenue for redressal of citizen grievances.”

Onir said that the guidelines will result in the death of cinema and good content. "Stab the artist and keep everyone happy. The worst that democracy can do to an artist is this regulation of OTT,” he said.

CBFC chairperson and lyricist Prasoon Joshi said, "Measures taken for a level playing field and empowering consumers would provide clarity for content creators of emerging platforms. Responsible and accountable mechanisms will only bring in more quality and maturity in a commercial creative industry."

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