Why OTT Platforms In India Are Editing Movies

We live in a time of on-the-go media. With the development of platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ Hotstar, and Zee Prime, to mention a few, we now have access to a diverse range of material. Nevertheless, such over-the-top (OTT) services have recently come under fire from the Government of India for content restriction.


In this blog, we’ll talk about the impact of censorship on OTT platforms and why certain platforms are taking things into their own hands by editing movies with an aim to adopt self-censorship.

The Rise of OTT Platforms In India

Covid's crisis year has seen businesses struggle, economies fall, and entire sectors destroyed. Its shockwave has jolted multiple industries and sectors in India that are still looking for a way out. However, there’s no doubt that 2020 was a golden year for one sector; OTT platforms. It's difficult to overstate how much money OTT (over-the-top) services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ Hotstar, ZEE5, ALTBalaji, SonyLIV and several others have gained as a lockdown-weary public looks for a ray of sunlight.

According to PwC research, India is now the fastest-growing market for OTT video, with a CAGR of 28.6 per cent, and is expected to be the next sixth-largest OTT industry with sales of $2.9 billion by 2024.

As per individual transaction consulting company RBSA Advisors, India's Over the Top (OTT) entertainment sector has the capacity to develop to $15 billion within the next 9 to 10 years. The OTT business was worth $1.7 billion in FY20 (combined sound and video), and it is rapidly growing into a multibillion-dollar sector, cannibalizing the entrenched bastions of conventional television, radios, and movie theater forms of entertainment and media.

With access to improved networks, digital connections and smartphones, OTT services in India have acquired a rising number of concurrent customers. Aside from significant favorites like Disney+ Hotstar, Amazon Prime Video, and Netflix, the market is witnessing a slew of regional and local OTT providers, including SonyLIV, Voot, Zee5, Eros Now ALTBalaji, Hoichoi, as well as Adda Times, to mention a few.

The Role of The Censorship Board In OTT Platforms

OTT's unchecked growth, on the other hand, is now prompting legitimate worries about censorship. What's more concerning is that its creative choices are occasionally distinguished by controversial topics that make conservatives nervous. Following the Information and Broadcasting Ministry's announcement in November that internet material will be subject to their jurisdiction, several filmmakers criticized the decision, characterizing it as "moral policing" as well as the Indian political establishment's evident fear of free expression.

But, since the government brought OTT services under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) jurisdiction, there has been growing fear in the streaming industry that the Ministry may impose restrictions on OTT material via its own system of rules and regulations.

The industry is still divided on how to apply censorship on OTT services. "Such an action may divergently stifle content generators, financially disable young media company owners, also in a socio-political context, it may set worrying examples about what can and therefore can be shown or conveyed to the wider populace, says Krish Arvapally, co-founder, Chairman, and CTO of UNREEL Entertainment.

Irrespective of the government's ruling, it seems that OTT platforms like Netflix are progressively taking the steps in India to implement self-censorship depending on their judgment of offensive cultural content.

Are OTT Platforms Editing Movies?

If you've spent a lot of time enjoying the content on OTT platforms, you've probably seen this message a hundred times: "This movie has been changed from its original form." It has been modified to fit the size of this screen." But what if you were just not informed that you were seeing an edited version of a movie or television series?

For instance, Amazon Prime India just removed an entire episode of the CBS political program Madam Secretary. The fifth season’s canceled episode had violent violence targeting Muslims as well as other communities in India, which might have harmed feelings.

Famous films like Planet of the Apes, Prometheus, as well as Inglourious Basterds have also been impacted, with complete characters disappearing in the Netflix version.

But why are the major streaming services in India altering movies? Simply said, it is simpler to modify movies than it is to be prohibited altogether.

Amazon Prime

Adult-themed Hindi films on Amazon Prime Video are finishing much too soon. On its direct-to-consumer streaming video service in India, the Seattle-based technology corporation seems to be self-censoring material. With erased sex scenes or muted offensive speech, films that formerly showed in theaters with an adult classification can now be seen by youngsters over the age of 13. However, this has resulted in the removal of some crucial moments from a film.

The Dirty Picture, a brave Vidya Balan film inspired by the biography of Silk Smitha, a 1980s South Indian cinema diva known for her outrageous roles, is omitting scenes and lines on Amazon Prime Video. In one instance, Balan had an explicit conversation with Naseeruddin Shah in what is intended to be their characters' initial meeting, which has been removed. The other is an intimate scene in which the protagonist, played by Balan, is filming for a movie. Other scenes are also missing, resulting in a total of 17 minutes being removed from the film.

Hunterrr, the 2015 adult comedy, is also nine minutes less on Amazon Prime Video, lacking a one-and-a-half minute love scene plus few other sequences.

Netflix

While Netflix was first reluctant to self-censor movies due to its members' devotion, censored board pressure forced them to reconsider. For the first time ever, Netflix released a Hollywood film prior to its distribution on the Indian site. According to Medianama, Netflix filtered the Hollywood film Mission Impossible: Fallout before the OTT platform released the movie.

It has deleted portions of the film's opening sections, which contain maps of Kashmir. This is the identical version of the film that was shown in Indian theaters in 2018.

This is the first time Netflix has been solely responsible for filtering its material before being published on the Indian site. The final moment takes place in Kashmir; however, the filtered version on Netflix carefully avoids the sequence, primarily establishing the location.

In May 2020, Netflix distributed the significant historical drama series "Vikings" in India. However, much to the viewers' dismay, it was a censored version. According to users, the show, which was released unedited in the United States and Italy, contains many edits and blurs. Censored scenes include nudity, brutality, and even meat!

Viking series 5, episode 12 on Netflix, is approximately 46 minutes long in the United States but approximately 42 and half minutes in India. Nudity sequences are entirely obscured, and certain violent moments are deleted. The meat scenes feature two slices of cooked pork, something Muslims find objectionable. Strangely, the clips remained unedited on Netflix in the UAE, a largely Muslim country with severe anti-pork laws.

Hotstar

Disney Plus Hotstar banned an episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight that attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2020. It must be emphasized that the Central Government did not even request that the program be blocked on Disney Plus Hotstar. One can only imagine how bad things may go if new laws focusing mostly on content filtering became the norm.

What's Next?

Content providers and websites are hoping that the change would be administrative in nature. "We look forward to collaborating with the government to put our industry's self-regulation initiatives into action. As conscientious content providers, we want to guarantee that this legislation not only considers the nature of the content being distributed but also protects creativity in this fast-developing sector," stated Karan Bedi, CEO of indigenous OTT network MX Player.

Prakash Javadekar, India's Information and Broadcasting Secretary, has stated that the country's new OTT standards are right around the corner and that stakeholders would be notified shortly. Meanwhile, the IAMAI has just released a toolset for OTT network self-regulation in India.

Following its prior rejection by the Centre, IAMAI's modified self-regulation tools have been embraced by 17 services, namely Disney Plus Hotstar, Zee5, Netflix, MX Player, Amazon Prime Video, Jio Cinema, SonyLiv, Discovery Plus, Hungama, HoiChoi, Eros Now, and others. The toolkit, dubbed 'Universal Self-Regulation Code for OCCPs (Online Curated Content Providers),' attempts to handle consumer content as well as other content concerns.

Conclusion

OTT platforms have been a breath of fresh air for filmmakers and viewers alike, as they provided them with an opportunity to produce content without any restrictions. While censorship to a degree might be necessary when it comes to preventing hurting the sentiments of people and communities, the question remains; how much of censorship is justified?

With the increasing involvement of the censorship board in the content published on OTT platforms, only time will tell how much it will impact the sector’s growth and subscriber base. Till then, for more updates and upcoming movies on OTT platforms, keep reading Selectra.

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