OTT platforms fear self-censorship as they go mainstream

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OTT platforms will be taking up many big projects in 2022 starring famous mainstream faces.

However, they are cautious about the increased inspection by the government and other groups, as was seen many times this past year. So, wanting to play it safe, the OTT platforms are self-censoring themselves.

Creators taking legal advice on scripts and shot material was the popular trend seen this year. The government of India introduced a three-tier mechanism in February, officially increasing its control over OTT platforms.

The mechanism is called the ‘soft-touch regulatory architecture’, where the first two tiers introduce a system of self-regulation by the platform itself, and the third tier is an oversight mechanism by the government.

There have been disagreements about the extent of creative liberty that can be given to content makers, and this has split the industry as a whole into two.

Platforms like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix wanted to keep on delivering edgy content. For this, they have formed a self-regulatory body under the Internet and Mobile Association of India. Meanwhile, apps such as Disney+ Hotstar, Voot, and Sony LIV have decided to play it safe.

The moves by Amazon Prime Video come after the crackdown on shows like Tandav, against which FIR’s were filed for hurting religious sentiments. Other shows like Bombay Begums, Ashram, and Mirzapur have also been tied up in controversy.

After the increased scrutiny, OTT platforms were seen bolstering their legal departments. Companies were trying to identify problematic portions of their scripts.

However, also wanting mass-market acceptance of their content, platforms are launching a lot of big-budget shows that feature mainstream names — shows that can be watched by families on large television screens.

For Disney+ Hotstar, Applause Entertainment has been making Rudra – The Edge of Darkness. Amazon Prime Video has projects planned with big names like Shahid Kapoor and Akshay Kumar. Netflix has content lined up with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Vishal Bhardwaj, Zoya Akhtar, and Madhuri Dixit.

The Indian OTT platform audience is skewed towards the male gender with a share of 59%. If one looks at active paid subscriptions in India then this increases to 66%. Following this, the male-skewed genres of crime, thriller, and action have the top-performing shows on OTT.

According to Keerat Grewal, a partner at Ormax, a media consulting firm, shows should be made age and gender-inclusive firstly without caring whether or not they are suitable for family viewing.

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