India will not tolerate use of abusive language and display of obscene content in movies and TV shows on on-demand video streaming services, a key minister has warned in a move that a critic cautioned illustrates how the nation’s IT rules have “handed over direct ministerial power for censorship.”
Anurag Thakur, Union Minister of Information Broadcasting and Sports and Youth Affairs, said at a press conference that use of abusive language in the name of creativity will not be tolerated and that the government is receiving a growing list of complaints about increasing abusive and obscene content.
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 at a conference, transcript of which has since been published on the government site.
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, “The process so far is that the producer has to resolve the received complaints at the first level. 90 to 92 % of the complaints are resolved by them by making necessary changes. The next level of complaint resolution is at the level of their association, where most of the complaints are resolved. At the last level it comes to the level of the government, where action is taken on the departmental committee level, according to the rules in place. But somewhere complaints have started increasing in the last few days and the department is taking it very seriously. If there is a need to make a change we are willing to consider it seriously.”
The minister’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.