Zee News brings its viewers news across genres and on their favourite show DNA, Zee News Editor-in-Chief Sudhir Chaudhary speaks on several topics and explains them further. As a channel, we fully follow guidelines of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority regulating Television News and these guidelines apply to all news channels. However, no such rules apply to the OTT Platforms and Digital Media.
This is one of the crucial reasons why viewers of OTT platforms get to watch and hear a lot of violence and abuses in online content. News channels in India are accused of promoting religious discrimination. But when Hindu gods and goddesses are insulted in films in the name of entertainment, why is there silence? Even more so since it projects hatred and negative thoughts that get injected into the DNA of the people. So, today it becomes absolutely necessary to decode this unlimited freedom of the OTT platforms.
First of all, let us understand why it is called OTT Platforms–Over The Top. When the content of films and television is made available to viewers through the internet, without any cable network and satellite channel, it is called OTT. But now these OTT platforms are erecting walls of negative thoughts around us.
The basis of this analysis is a web series released on January 15–Tandav. In this web series, there are allegations of humiliating Hindu deities and the important thing is that all these have happened in the name of freedom of expression. Imagine how it transcends boundaries and justifies the insult of Hindu deities. This is called an ‘art’ that should be valued. Many people have been angered on this subject but it is to be noted that there was no riot in India, people did not occupy the streets, Shaheen Bagh was not built anywhere else.
But imagine what would have happened if similar insults had been committed to another religion? In an incident in Bengaluru in 2020, a Facebook post sparked violence and two police stations were set on fire by the mob. But this did not happen in this case. In our country, it has become very easy to insult Hindu deities and the producer-directors of weeb series have been accused of the same.
The new series has introduced a very negative image of the country. The character of the country’s politician, hospital, school, police, university, administration, government, the prime minister is shown in such a way that your confidence will be lost from all this. It has been shown that nothing good is happening in our country. In the series, the names of the characters, the victims of atrocities in the incidents, have been made a narrative by linking them to a particular religion which presents the wrong image of the country to the world. However, a dispute has now arisen and an FIR has also been filed in Lucknow and people are demanding action against the producers and directors of this web series.
There should be regulations for OTT platforms and digital media because when the expression in the society gets moulded in the form of speaking, writing and showing, then the biggest danger to this expression is democracy itself. It becomes a power over which no one has control. We believe that the films and web series shown in the name of freedom of expression are starting to take the course of abuses and vulgarity.
Earlier, the journey from shooting to the screening of films used to be in a long reel which was delivered to theatres in a box. Hundreds of feet long reel were mechanically rotated through which a bright light used to go on the screen and the scenes of those iconic Bollywood films were seen. People used to form long lines to watch the films and this journey of entertainment has been prevalent for the last few decades.
This journey started from Doordarshan through which information and many TV serials reached door to door. One of them was ‘Hum Log’ which was based on the story of India’s middle-class families. Similarly, serials like ‘Wagle Ki Duniya’, ‘Malgudi Days’, ‘Yatra’ and ‘Mungeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapne’ became very popular.
Then a new twist in this journey came in the form of Zee TV when private satellite channels entered India. In 1993, a serial was aired on ZEE TV, titled Tara which had no vulgarity of any kind neither were there any abuses. Nevertheless, this serial was quite a hit in India. Apart from this, there came serials like ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’, ‘Rajni’, ‘Sa Re Ga Ma Pa’ and ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ which created a different identity among the people.
At present, this journey has reached the OTT platforms where vulgarity and abuses are tested as a test of success, where it is believed that the more abuses the greater the chance of getting success. According to a study, while watching movies and web series on OTT platforms, the attention of people gets diverted every 8 seconds and in so abuses and obscenity are added in films to keep these people hooked onto them.
It is very easy to trade negative thoughts in India as it is easily valued in our country. Many companies make crores of rupees by selling them as this is from your money. Trading negative thoughts become a profitable deal with your money and there is a formula behind it.
In the 1980s in films, two brothers were shown from a poor family and they had an enemy. There was definitely a negative character so that the hero would take revenge later and this formula made many films a hit in that period. But changes were also made in this formula over time. In 1994, a film was released ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ and here weddings of Indian customs were shown as an event. It is said that due to this film, the mentality of the people also changed and weddings became a big market in India.
Now a similar hit formula is also being worked on OTT Platforms. The formula is to offend religious sentiments, add as much vulgarity to the story, glamorize abuses in the name of dialogues and connect the whole story around a negative character. This is the formula of films and web series to be hit on OTT platforms.
When social media came in India, people were not serious about it. People believed that it would not have much impact on our society. But all these assumptions proved to be wrong and today social media is deciding the direction of mainstream media. In our country, people think about OTT platforms in the same way as it once thought about social media which is, our country is not so serious towards it. This is the most worrying thing.
When Hindu Gods and Goddesses are insulted in India, then freedom of expression is assumed and a big reason for this is giving rise to controversy as the controversy is considered a guarantee of success for films. In 2018, a film came out named ‘Padmavat’. The film was first named ‘Padmavati’ but later when it was disputed, the film was renamed to ‘Padmavat’ and this controversy also made the film a success.
Similarly, a film was released on OTT Platform recently, ‘Laxmi’. Previously the name of this film was ‘Laxmi Bomb’ but it was later changed to ‘Lakshmi’ after the censor board’s objection. This film was also a success by this controversy. However, we feel that OTT platforms also have some such powers through which it can become a very effective platform if it is free from designer ideas. So today we want to tell you some strong aspects of this as well.
First, it has brought a new refresh in stories. A new style of telling and showing films has been born. Stardom has broken and new artists and writers have got the stage. Most importantly, because of this platform, a 10-hour-long web series has been created which probably no one had even imagined.
In India, it was announced recently that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will have control over the OTT platforms. President Ram Nath Kovind has also signed this notification and now the government keeps a close watch on whatever content you view online. A few days ago the government also made it clear in the Supreme Court that before controlling the news channels, digital media needs to be controlled.
Problems are discussed in our country, but what is the solution to that problem. We give you three points. First of all, amend the law to cover the OTT Platforms clearly because at the moment nothing is written directly on it. Secondly, OTT Service Providers accountability regarding content should be fixed and to do this, the government has to make new laws and regulations.
Thirdly, the government will have to ensure that when a complaint is made about any content of OTT Platforms, then action should be taken in due time. Right now one has to go to court and then the court decides whether the content is inflammatory or not. Meanwhile, director Ali Abbas has apologized after the controversy started on the web series Tandav. He has shared his apology by tweeting.