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Netflix and Amazon Prime May Have to Censor Explicit Content in India Soon

The Madhya Pradesh High Court has issued notices to online streaming platforms in a petition that seeks to regulate uncensored digital content.

by Shamani Joshi
26 September 2019, 8:44am

Screenshot of "Lust Stories"

Your Netflix may just get a lot less chill. The Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in India just issued notices on a petition filed against online streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime to regulate the uncensored content that is put out by them. Charging the content for being “obscene” and “sexually explicit”, this Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO named Maatr Foundation, wants to lay down some rules in the largely unregulated course of online content created by Balaji Telefilms, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Ullu, Viacom 18, VIU, Yash Raj Films, and more.

Repped by Advocates Amay Bajaj, Ashi Vaidya, Paritosh Shrivastava and Anmol Kushwaha, the petition also point out that since these online streaming services are easily accessible to anyone with an internet connection and an affinity to binge-watch, it could be influencing the adolescent minds of minors with its “vulgar” and “obscene” content, equating it to porn and hence calling the streamed content illegal since porn was banned back in 2015.

"These content streamers are not only objectifying women but also showing them in bad light and are filling the minds with lascivious thoughts which is violative of their fundamental right to live with dignity,” said one of the petitioners in court.

While movie content that comes out in India is usually censored by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), streaming services manage to bypass all the cuts because they run on the internet. But you can’t just take the lust out of Lust Stories, try to beep out the scandalous sinners of Made In Heaven, or cut out the graphic elements from Sacred Games and expect it to have the same effect on its viewers. Bottom line is, these shows are finally climbing out of the sinkhole of soap operas and making punchy, relatable content for all young people in India, and even getting the international recognition they deserve for it.

Even the CBFC and Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India doesn’t want to touch the subject with a ten-foot pole, and has denied jurisdiction in previous petitions filed against these platforms. Netflix, Hotstar, Jio, Eros Now, Sony Pictures, Arre, ALTBalaji, Zee5 and Viacom18 in January had promised to adhere to a ‘Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers’ and regulate their own content, but since this isn’t legally enforceable, apparently it isn’t enough.

Now, the petitioner wants the Court to frame guidelines and are ordering the removal of all “illegal” explicit content because they feel that online streaming needs a watchdog or it’ll simply run wild. They also want the Court to lump “Internet Media Content Streaming" under Section 2 (c) of the Cinematograph Act, 1952 that regulates the rest of the film industry.

While similar pleas have earlier been dismissed in Delhi and Karnataka, and another one awaits the approval of the Supreme Court, streaming platform shows have increasingly become a point of contention for critics, with some of them even saying this content is “defaming Hindus” and painting an incorrect, unrealistic picture of India. The matter on whether online streaming platforms deserve the beeping black line will next be taken up on December 10, 2019.

Follow Shamani Joshi on Instagram.

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