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Drop in FIRs against OTT content due to self-regulation mechanism: Joint Secy Vikram Sahay

The government has a lot of faith in the creators of films and web series, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said during a panel discussion at FICCI Frames 2023

Vikram Sahay, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), said that the self-regulation mechanism for OTT content is working fine and reiterated the government’s belief in a strong and soft-touch self-regulation mechanism.

“We tried to create such a structure for digital media as well and get some ideas from abroad. We had so many options but we believed that we should have a strong and soft-touch self-regulation mechanism. The government has a lot of faith in the creators of films and web series. It is so great to know that the original content in India is now very dominant,” Sahay said on Thursday during a panel discussion at FICCI Frames in Mumbai.  

Furthermore, he went on to say that certain incidents of FIR being lodged against OTT content have come down because there is a mechanism in place. People are aware that if there is a grievance, they can approach the publisher or the ministry and they will get a reply. 

Ajit Thakur, Co-founder, Aha, said that there is a need for more awareness and collaboration with the government to work on the self-regulation mechanism for digital space and address sensitivities in content.

Thakur said that five years ago, when the OTT revolution started, there was this wrong perception among a certain creator community that OTT is only for a 25-year-old young male and it is watched on a personal device, which was not true.

“Even back then, OTT was a much wider space. Now through the three years of Covid-19, 40-50% of viewership happens on larger TV screens and there is a lot more family viewing happening on the OTTs, than what the normal perception was. The creator community in India has always been extremely adaptive and responsible. As that shift has happened from a young male medium to family viewing audience, the community is adapting, and thanks to some of the initiatives that the government has taken regarding the regulations,” Thakur said. 

“I have had the privilege of working with Sony and Star where self-regulation used to happen prevalently. The gap that we now have is awareness and just us working in that direction is not enough, we need help from the bodies and the government to build it,” he added. 

Furthermore, he went on to say that the advantage of OTTs is that people can make separate profiles and it's not a big technology investment. 

“Together we need to raise a lot more awareness that we are already aware of the sensitivities and we need to tell people that if you are offended, they can reach out to us and we will definitely address it,” Thakur stated. 

Nitin Tej Ahuja, CEO, The Film Producers Guild of India, said that behind the entire process that goes into the content's final appearance on a platform, there are mechanisms in place. 

“Thanks to MIB for having such a responsible and pretty soft-touch regulation which emphasises self-regulation,” he added. 

Madhu Bhojwani, Producer, Emmay Entertainment, stated that the platforms that they work with themselves have very strong and mature SAP departments which are aligned with what it is that you can and cannot do. 

Tanveer Bookwala, Producer, Founder, DING Infinity, said, “We are living in very sensitive times. Lately, we have seen a lot of people getting offended because of a lot of things and it is impossible to please everybody. We do keep in mind what would offend people and what will align with the sensibilities of culture. It has now become a difficult situation because we are now questioning everything we do. So, that does hinder creativity on some level.”

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