It seems, reasonably enough, that the outrage was waiting to happen. The growth of the Over-the-top media services platforms (OTT) that distribute video streaming over the internet, has been tremendous in the last eight years in India; in 2018 its market worth was more than INR 21.5 billion which has grown to INR 35 billion in 2019 and it is around INR 40 billion now. The market worth is expected to grow at the exponential rate of 45% to reach around INR 138 billion in 2023 and over 158 billion in 2024. The platforms enjoy a viewership of more than 1.7 billion subscribers currently which is likely to rise to a whopping 5 billion this year, making it the second-biggest OTT market after the US. Except for Reliance Entertainment’s launch of BIGFlix in 2008, the biggest of the 40-odd OTT platforms like SonyLIV, Disney-Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Voot, JioCinema and Zee5 started operations in India during 2013-18.
Initially, the OTT platforms were streaming released feature films, documentaries, short films and the like, but over time they have launched themselves into their own video productions of movies, shorts and most importantly, the Web Series, and then streaming those to their subscribers who can enjoy in their smartphones, laptops and desktops. Here lay the catch: there have been established regulatory bodies for print and electronic media; for advertising spots; and for the visual media including feature films, documentaries and any other theatre-releases; however, for the OTT platforms, called Digital Media that includes social media and all other online expressions, there were no regulatory bodies, and this gave them a distinct advantage over others.
After watching the streamed videos, particularly the Web-series with up to 9-10 episodes, one feels, again reasonably enough, that what the filmmakers cannot afford to do in the to-be-certified film productions, they can do it in the most self-indulgent ways in the OTT productions. This means: they can allow their actors to mouth all of the slangs/abuses in wanton abundance, they can show explicit sex scenes in graphic indulgence and can also have violence beyond measure, in full gory details. This huge advantage was bound to raise concerns and alert the vigilante hardliners, sooner or later.
While the other forms of media, despite being regulated, have been facing attacks from the hardline groups and the fringe elements, the Web-series productions, despite showcasing much bolder content, continued to enjoy some kind of immunity except for the occasional PIL. This scenario is perhaps explained by the fact that the OTT platforms mostly cater to the urban users having the required facilities, and the viewing being primarily personal with headphones plugged in. Thanks to the Digital India connectivity campaign, the emergence of the Jio mobile-phone and internet services, and the consequent crash in mobile and internet charges all over, the subscriber-gates also opened up to the huge sector of rural India.
Naturally then, the Government of India started thinking voot download apk about bringing the enormously growing digital media as a whole under its regulation. The mandarins of the OTT management sensed it too, and they worked out a self-regulation formula, coming together, sometime in early 2020. But the Government rejected this proposal, and eventually in November 2020 the Government of India, through a Gazette notification signed by the President of India, brought all of digital media under its control, that is, under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. After volleys of protests and concerns, the picture is still not clear as to how this regulation would work out in practical terms.
And finally, all hell broke loose as the Hindutva groups protested vehemently against Amazon Prime Video’s new Web-series, Tandav (Catastrophe), objecting against some scenes in the Series supposedly making a mockery of Hindu Gods. The Government of Uttar Pradesh went to the extent of lodging FIRs against the producers of Tandav, and threatening even arrests. The national ruling party, as usual, came out in full support of the chorus for action with some of its leaders pledging to bring those producers to book, at any cost. The producers were also summoned by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for explanations. The stirrings transformed into a full Tandava as objections were also raised against Amazon’s most popular Web-series ‘Mirzapur’-seasons 1 and 2, after months of the streaming.