Live dramatic performances do not escape the possibility of censorship, thanks to the Dramatic Performances Act. These are laws on the books which the government can use to stop you if your chosen vehicle of viewership is a pantomime, a book, or a movie, i.e., anything that involves real-life enactment. None of this applies to moving images on the internet, however. As the internet steadily replaces movie theatres and broadcast television in the affections of Indian viewers, pressure has grown on the government to decide if it wants to extend these restrictions to cyberspace. Against the backdrop of this, Delhi-based NGO, Justice for Rights Foundation, has reportedly filed a petition in the Delhi High Court complaining of vulgarity and obscenity on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar.
Streaming services have, until now, been celebrated by lakhs of Indian viewers for giving them access to uncensored content. They are only too aware of the Censor Board and the delicate struggle that Indian filmmakers play when it comes to obtaining the CBFC certificate we see before every film. Although there is technically no requirement for a CBFC certificate for a film shown on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hotstar, in practice, these streaming services voluntarily upload only censored versions of Indian movies—complete with a CBFC certificate displayed pre-roll. Shows available on these services (including original shows) are often similarly self-censored. For example, one of the episodes of the motoring show, The Grand Tour, is listed as only 30 minutes long on Amazon Prime, while the original is actually one hour. The half-an-hour difference is the sum of cuts made to remove all references to a car made of meat. But, there are already appropriate age-demarcated disclaimers and labels on each of these platforms when it comes to content that does contain age-specific material. Further, these services even have parental controls that allow the parents of children to regulate the content their child can watch. With more and more Indians utilising over-the-top (OTT) apps such as Jio TV or Airtel TV, the pressure will only grow on the government to not censor and regulate content on these platforms.