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    Allahabad HC asks the Central Board of Film Certification to provide information on the censor certification process

    The Allahabad High Court has asked the Union of India and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to provide detailed information on the process used for granting censor certificates for films streaming on OTT services, LiveLaw reported. The court sought a reply from the organizations following its hearing of a Public Interest Litigation that sought cancellation of the censor certificate issued to the dubbed Hindi version of the 2015 Telugu movie that allegedly insulted the people of Bihar.

    The petition also called for action against the Chairman and Members of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) for granting certificates for public exhibition to films containing ‘unwarranted’ dialogues.

    Advocate Kuldeep Pati Tripathi, representing the petitioner Deepanker Kumar, argued that the content “can fuel regional prejudices and divisive feelings and can result in disharmony amongst residents of different states and has the potential of disturbing public order, etc. endangering constitutional spirit.”

    A hearing will take place in August after the UOI and CBFC have filed a counter-affidavit.

    Some context on censorship on OTT services

    An exclusive report by Reuters revealed that on June 20, 2023, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry asked Netflix, Disney, and other streaming services to independently review their content for obscenity and violence before publishing it on their platform. Despite objections from the platforms, the Government stated that there was a need for a “proactive approach” to streamline content as per a “so-called code of ethics.” This came a day after the Digital Publishers Content Grievances Council (DPCGC), a self-regulatory body, sent a takedown order to the streaming platform ULLU for its obscene content.

    Previously, the IT Ministry (Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology) had also directly stated that it aims to censure content on OTT platforms. It told the Delhi High Court in 2023 that it would develop rules to regulate vulgar language, profanity, and “bad words” on platforms, including on social media platforms, after being directed to do so following the obscenity trial against The Viral Fever’s OTT show “College Romance.”

    The draft Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2023, also attempted to address censorship by placing program and advertising codes that all broadcasters, including streaming services, must comply with.

    Why it matters

    The push towards regulation of OTT content can lead to a rise in censorship. The Editors Guild of India (EGI) expanded on this in their rebuttal to the inclusion of OTT services under the Broadcasting Services Regulation Bill, 2023. The Guild opposed the “program and advertising codes” as they could threaten freedom of speech. They explained how, if the code resembles the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994, which states that no program should contain anything obscene or anything that offends good taste or decency, it could formalize moral policing and censorship.

    Further, they stated that censorship limits users’ access to diverse points of view and their freedom of expression, as platforms would now only produce content that is palatable to the government.

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    The post Allahabad HC asks the Central Board of Film Certification to provide information on the censor certification process appeared first on MEDIANAMA.

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