India’s Minister Warns Against Abusive and Obscene Content on Streaming Services

streaming services that it will not tolerate the use of abusive language or obscene content in movies and TV shows. Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of Information Broadcasting and Sports and Youth Affairs

The Indian government has issued a warning to on-demand video streaming services that it will not tolerate the use of abusive language or obscene content in movies and TV shows. Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of Information Broadcasting and Sports and Youth Affairs, stated that the government is receiving numerous complaints about increasing levels of abusive and obscene content and that it will not hesitate to make changes to regulations to address the situation.

Thakur warned that New Delhi will not shy away from “making any changes” in the rules to address this situation. “If there is a need to make any changes in the rules regarding this, the ministry is willing to consider that. These platforms were given freedom for creativity, not obscenity. Whatever necessary action needs to be taken on this, the government will not back down from it,” he said.

India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which oversees programs beamed on television and screened in theatres in the country, assumed the authority to regulate policies for streaming platforms and digital news outlets in 2020. Thakur added that the process for complaints resolution starts with the producer, followed by the association level, and, if necessary, action is taken at the government departmental committee level.

However, a critic cautioned that the situation illustrates how the nation’s IT rules have “handed over direct ministerial power for censorship.” The government’s growing control over content is seen as a threat to the artistic freedom of filmmakers and producers, and the latest comments from Thakur suggest that the government is willing to go further to restrict the content available on streaming platforms.

Thakur’s remarks are the latest headache for Amazon and Netflix in India, both of which have faced heat for the choice of content they have approved in the South Asian market. In 2021, Amazon issued a rare apology to users in India for an original political drama series over allegations that a few scenes in the nine-part mini-series hurt religious sentiments of some people.

“We respect our viewers’ diverse beliefs and apologize unconditionally to anyone who felt hurt by these scenes. Our teams follow company content evaluation processes, which we acknowledge need to be constantly updated to better serve our audiences. We will continue to develop entertaining content with partners, while complying with the laws of India and respecting the diversity of culture and beliefs of our audiences,” Amazon said at the time.

However, some have argued that this move by the government is just the latest in a series of attempts to restrict freedom of expression in India. In recent years, the government has faced criticism for attempts to censor content on social media, and for passing laws that have been used to stifle dissent and curb free speech.

The Indian government’s move to restrict content on streaming platforms is seen as part of a broader trend towards greater control over the internet and social media. Critics argue that the government’s actions are designed to silence dissent and suppress freedom of expression, while supporters argue that the measures are necessary to maintain public order and protect the cultural values of the nation.

The debate over content regulation in India is likely to continue, with filmmakers and producers fighting for greater artistic freedom and the government seeking to maintain control over what is shown to the public. As the popularity of streaming services continues to grow in India, the government’s attempts to regulate content on these platforms will be closely watched by those on both sides of the debate.

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