The present decade of 21st century is changing the entertainment industry at a rapid pace. The entertainment industry has witnessed higher growth due to the emergence of over the top technological platforms or video streaming platforms in India.
At the start of the decade, almost 60% of the film revenue came from theatrical screening of movies and remaining share of revenue was generated by other sources such as CD/DVD release, DTH rights and other overseas rights. But now this trend is changing fast as the demand for video streaming platforms is increasing rapidly. Technology such as low cost internet, cheaper mobile devices, wifi sticks, on the go video streaming etc have enabled the rise of the OTT (Over-the-Top) platforms. These platforms are reducing the dependence on theatres, CDs and DVDs for new content. They stream conventional TV channels as well as web series that are exclusively available on these platforms.
As per the recent study, the most preferred content on these platforms is web series. Over 34% of viewers watch web series on these platforms. About 16% users watch movies and news on these platforms, 13% viewers watch reality TV shows whereas 10% users watch live sports events. Mostly Hindi content (over 80%) is viewed on these platforms.
Reasons Behind the Rapid Rise of OTT Platforms
These platforms are famous among viewers due to various reasons. Primarily, it is used for entertainment purposes. Leisure time is spent by people watching their favourite web series, news, sports etc. on these platforms. It provides high mobility, People can watch the shows while travelling, during lunch hours, during rest periods and it can be accessed anywhere and anytime. These platforms provide their services on mobile devices which are convenient to use. The cheap costs of data has also enabled the users to watch the web series and other contents online on their mobile devices at their own convenience.
The applications providing these contents on the phones are very easy to use They do not require installation of any set top box, dish set up or even a television. All it requires is a smartphone and a good internet connection. Moreover, the content on these platforms is provided on demand. A person can open the OTT application and start watching whatever show they want to see. They don’t need to wait for any scheduled timings in the day when the particular show will be available to them. These platforms are also cost effective. They are free to download and the monthly subscription fee is very low as compared to the traditional set top box or movie theatres.
The content on these platforms can be personalised and any language of one’s choice can be choosen to watch the available content. They are also characterised by regular updates. Unlike the set top boxes and movie theatres where new shows and movies are available after longer periods of time, shows on the online platforms are available with regular updates. A diverse range of genres are available on demand. People can watch horror, comedy, drama, classic, romance, epics and various other themes, all on one platform with a single subscription fee. All these factors, together have contributed to the rise of these online platforms in India. These applications have further potential of changing the entertainment industry in India and taking its growth to new levels.
No Regulation Over Web Series Content
Conventional sattelite channels provides the broadcasters with the discretion to air particular content. The government authorities are incharge of determining whether a particular content is suitable for being shown to the public. Emergence of online streaming has reduced the role of government in regulation. There are rules and regulations to regulate television operators but they fail to put any checks and balances on the newly emerging online streaming platforms. The personalised subscription based content on these platforms also reduces the surveillance that can be put up in these paltforms.
These OTT platforms, streaming various web series are self-regulated. They have signed their self-made censorship code that prohibits them from showing certain types of contents and set up a grievance redressal mechanism for consumer complains. However, not all platforms have signed this code. Hence, many of these web series are still unregulated and their content is still not scrutinised before being aired. Though the government has said that they will regulate online content but rules are not yet clear.
The regulation is carried out by Cinematograph Act of 1952 and Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act, 1955 and Cable TV Network Rules, 1994. These rules and laws lays down program and advertising codes that need to be followed during these broadcasts, but the definitions under these laws do not cover web series content on the OTT platforms. Thus, these platforms and web series are free to broadcast content that is on dernand, whether it is abusive, obscene or hurt feelings and sentiments of a particular community. Thus, the unregulated nature of the OTT web series should be regulated by a separate body and laws, so that the regulatory loopholes can be filled.
Pros of Censorship and Regulation
The web series and associated content over the digital platforms have succeeded in reaching the wider audiences. But explicit content and violent content is also reaching our childrens and has adverse effects on their mindsets and lives. The advantages of censoring and regulating online web series content includes
• It protects the freedom of speech and expression of people as watching a particular web series is also included in expression and speech. Censorship and regulation can keep the people, particularly the children, away from violent and sexually manipulating content that can expose them to pornographic materials and various forms of discrimination. Thus, freedom of one community is balanced with that of the other community.
• Censoring and regulating this type of content can also prevent the people from being victims of abuse, violencc and becoming perpetrators themselves. Children can get influenced and it could lead to changes in their behaviours that are harmful for others.
• It prevents certain religious and social groups from watching offensive content in these web series. Web series often broadcasts that type of content which is eye catching and involves controversies. This is broadcasted to get as much subscribers and views as one can. Thus, regulating this type of content, which is religiously and socially offensive can be done to maintain a balance in the society.
• It will also prevent violent crimes and abusive culture that is taking roots in the Indian society. Many of the web series thrive upon violent and uncensored crime scenes that particularly influences the young people and they get indulged in these type of activities at an early age. The adolescent population is particularly vulnerable to such content.
• Certification and censorship will also improve the content being broadcasted on these online platforms in the form of web series. More relevant content that is relevant for Indian society can be made as opposed to the current western influence on these platforms.
•Regulation will also curtail the unfair advantages that is enjoyed by the OTT platforms broadcasting web series as compared to the traditional television. Thus, it will provide fairness and healthy competition on these platforms.
Cons of Censoring and Regulating
The disadvantages of censoring and regulations are
• It will curtail the freedom of speech and expression of creators. It will also curtail the creative expression of movie makers. Further, censoring a particular content can also lead to deprivation of public information related to the social issues prevailing in the society.
• Censorship is also guided by political interests. Often content that reveals truth about the ills of the ruling class is censored as to influence the voters. Web series that support a particular political party is also aired closer to the election times. There have been censorship attempts against shows and movies that have criticised the policies of the governments in the past.
• There are loopholes in the enforcement of censorship. Despite various laws for censoring, it has not yet been able to fully censor violent and explicit content. Still various TV shows and movies are filled with violent scenes and nudity. Thus, it is argued that web series censorship will also be waste of taxpayer’s money and some other method should be invented.
•Censoring can also demotivate and demoralise creative expression of individuals. It can have negative effects on the fast growing entertainment industry of India as people will be demotivated to make new content because of fear of censorship
Conclusion About WEB SERIES
The OTT technological platforms have successfully taken roots in the Indian entertainment market. It has led to a rush for ratings and profit-making among the producers of the web series that are mainly viewed on the OTT platforms. These online platforms have given an opportunity to the Indian producers and creators in expressing themselves fully; simultaneously reaching the widest audienc possible, breaking all the age, sex, class and caste barriers. But this industry is also affected by issues such as violent content, promoting hatred, discrimination, sexual nudity etc.
Thus, these concerns about the web series content should be addressed as soon as possible by consultations with all the stakeholders such as producers, the government, viewers and relevant regulators. It is proven, as in the case of other countries too that self-regulation is more or less similar to no regulation. Hence, censorship and regulation should be prioritised so that good quality content can be filtered out from the bad one.
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