OTT: Double-Edged Sword
OTT is the buzzword now, which stands for ‘over-the-top’, which means any platform that provides streaming of video content like TV shows and movies via app or website over the internet instead of traditional distribution networks such as cable and DTH. In the beginning, OTTs came into being as the content hosting platforms, but soon they turned into making originals of movies and web series. And OTT platforms resurgence can be seen in the fact that a 2018 report by KGMG Media and Entertainment stated that India’s OTT market would register a 45 per cent growth by 2023. But in the Corona period, it achieved this goal ahead of time. Owing to the closure of cinema and multiplexes during the lockdown, the OTT platforms gained tremendous acceptance as well as attractiveness for every age group across the world, including India. But while it has opened up new dimensions for entertainment and struggling youth in the region, it has also given rise to many controversies and concerns. Just as every coin has two sides, OTT also has both positive and negative aspects. If we talk about its positive side, then it has opened many doors for people of all ages who want to make a career in the film and serial world without any discrimination. Talking about the negative side, the kind of content that is being served today in the name of entertainment, creativity and freedom of expression, is becoming a matter of concern for the common man, intellectuals and even for the government in the country. This subject also becomes serious because the Government of India has no control over them. It is apt to mention that OTT platforms had found land many years earlier in the country, but they took root in India in the eight months of the Corona period. A large section of the audience is now attached to it. It is estimated that by 2023 the OTT market in India alone will be to the tune of Rs 3.6 lakh crore. In view of its expansion in the coming time, the Central Government has issued a notification to bring the online news portal, online content provider under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
The supporters argue that it is an attempt to level the playing field for digital and non-digital players, as non-digital media operators are subjected to various regulations–the news channels and print media as a source of current affairs have to register themselves with the government; theatrical release of a movie is not possible without clearance from Central Board of Film Certification, whereas the OTT platforms continue to grow manifold and have no such requirements to follow. Here it cannot be gainsaid that films in India, especially in urban and semi-urban areas, are the tangible catalyst of entertainment. Undoubtedly, films and TV programmes have immense potential and capacity to influence the thought process, attitudes, and behaviour of the people. It is normally noted that the youth, particularly kids and teens are prone to learn the dialogues and songs from movies or TV programmes, which are etched in their psyche, consciously and subconsciously for long. In this perspective, when the OTT platforms offer anti- national or anti-religious content, it provokes the masses to react instantly and thus, it can be said that OTT platforms are spreading negative culture among the youth. Against this backdrop, it is lamentable to note that Indian entertainment industry is going to be driven by the digital operators in the years to come. Customisation of movies, shows, web series, sporting events and melodrama is on its peak as we have got a larger group of viewers and subscribers. Hence, it is incumbent on the Central government to rein in these OTT platforms with stringent laws so as to values and ethos of our cultural heritage could be infused in our countrymen, particularly youths and kids.
By Deepak Kumar Rath