A screengrab of the scene from Amazon Prime's Tandav featuring actor Zeeshan Ayyub, which has allegedly hurt Hindu sentiments
The makers of Amazon Prime Video's new web series Tandav have issued an apology following complaints that the show is hurting Hindu sentiments.
The question now is: What will happen to the show? Will it be banned altogether?
According to analyst Karan Taurani, Vice-President, Elara Capital, who closely tracks the OTT space, the makers are likely to take off the scenes that are the cause of concern. However, he doesn't think the controversy surrounding the show Tandav will lead to its ban.
This has happened before. Amazon Prime Video had to delete an entire episode of its show called Madam Secretary after objections were raised for its India version. However, the show continues to stream on the platform.
The reason why Taurani says this is because over the top (OTT) platforms even after coming under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting are still under the self-regulation framework which the video streaming platforms were already following.
"OTTs were brought under I&B ambit and are currently under a self-regulation framework. However, its role in censorship of content has still not been determined. Its stance in the current Tandav (Amazon prime Video's web series) case may help establish precedents," Utkarsh Sinha, MD, Bexley Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused on early stage deals in tech and media, told Moneycontrol.
But Taurani thinks that there will never be blanket censorship as that will negatively impact the OTT growth India has been witnessing in the last few years.
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In fact, the number of OTT subscriptions in 2020 grew by around 50 percent as compared to 2018, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
This is why Taurani thinks that self regulation will continue, but there could be selective interference.
"I&B Ministry may focus on niche spaces where they can look at interfering like fake news or this (Tandav) particular type of sensitive content. This (I&B Ministry's self regulation mechanism) is about making things more clear. But you will not find censorship for sure," said Taurani.
When it comes to self-regulation, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) along with OTTs came up with a code last year. The code, which was signed by around 15 video streaming platforms, included a grievance redressal mechanism that would have looked into the complaints raised by viewers.
IAMAI had come up with a system that is similar to the one followed by TV.
Here's how TV regulates content
Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) in June 2011 had set up the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council (BCCC), an independent self-regulatory body for non-news general entertainment channels.
You may have noticed messages run by channels on the bottom of the TV screen saying that if viewers have any complaints regarding the content of any programme airing on television channels they can write to BCCC.
A visit to the IBF's website shows some of the complaints that the BCCC has addressed. There have been objections raised against content shown on TV shows like Sa Re Ga Ma, Begusarai, Balika Vadhu, among others.
One complaint pointed out that on the show Sa Re Ga Ma, a judge had asked a 10-year-old child, “How many girlfriends do you have?” and the child had replied 'four'. The judge on the show had further said that after his singing performance, the child will have lakhs of girlfriends. The complaint noted that "such conversations are not meant to be done with children."
After the complaint was raised, BCCC had issued a notice to the channel.
A new self-regulatory mechanism by I&B Ministry
While IAMAI's self-regulatory mechanism was similar to that of TV, certain aspects were missing.
The I&B Ministry pointed out that IAMAI's self-regulatory mechanism did not have classification of prohibited content. In addition, the advisory panel to regulate content only included one independent member and the other two members would be from online curated content providers (OCCP).
According to the I&B Ministry, IAMAI's self-regulatory mechanism is tilted more in favour of OTTs and this is why they are working on a new self-regulating mechanism.
After the Tandav controversy, any negative impact on OTTs?
According to Taurani, there is nothing to worry with regard to OTT consumption.
"Such controversies happen and it is the same for films. Even Deepika Padukone-starrer Padmavat was not released in three states and it saw a 10-15 percent drop in collections but it still was released in theatres," he said.
According to Sinha, clamping down hard on creativity only leads to producing the lowest common denominator of content. "One needs to only look at the dark ages of television soaps to know how that plays out. Moving OTT towards the censorship landscape feels counterproductive."