This problem emerges amid recent developments in IT rules requiring streaming platforms like Netflix to receive complaints from the public about the content they are streaming.
Netflix received a complaint about the horror film Ghost Stories and wrote an email to the production company asking for the “reasons” behind a scene in the film, according to filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s Instagram story, which MediaNama saw on Tuesday evening . The complaint concerned the section by Kashyap in the four-part anthology, specifically a scene in which an expectant mother miscarries and is shown “devouring her own fetus.” Ghost Stories was released as a Netflix Original in January, produced by RSVP Movies.
“So it started .. a complaint about Ghost Stories came in on Netflix. That’s the end, ”Kashyap complained in a caption to the story that is no longer visible in the filmmaker’s profile. Netflix told MediaNama that it was a partner-managed production that reached out to the production company (RSVP Movies) to share the complaint.
The complaint was likely filed with Netflix as a complaint under the Information Technology Rules (Broker Liability and Digital Media Ethics Code) 2021. A description of the complaint Netflix sent to the movie’s production company is included in this story. Rated in India for 16-year-olds and above, Netflix’s second-maturing rating at the time of this report’s publication, the film includes content descriptions that warn viewers about violence, sex, and poor language.
Why is that important?
This is the first content-related complaint that Netflix has publicly considered under the IT rules. The complaint already indicates a few points:
- First, complaints about content, even in adult films, are carefully scrutinized for certain aspects outside the boundaries of IT rules (the rules require content descriptions but not trigger warnings for people who may have had certain traumatic experiences).
- Second, it seems that Netflix is bringing the creators themselves into the process: not the worst idea in theory, but judging from Kashyap’s reaction, it seems that the creators don’t appreciate the partial obligation to defend their content after it’s published.
The ramifications of this process are unlikely to be very public, but what is evident is that it puts pressure on Netflix and content creators to feel that content needs to be justified on their platform. It is also worrying that the complainants decide what is necessary for the story of a film and what is not.
Complaint summary text
The following is the text of the part of the complaint summary shared by Kashyap.
Complaint: The complainant raised a problem with a film from the collection of topics. The complainant has concerns about Anurag Kashyap’s film. The timestamps 1:22:00 to 1:17:15 are highlighted by the complainant, with the central figure shown devouring her own fetus from her miscarriage. The complainant believes that this scene is not required for the story, and if the creators wanted to add such a scene, a trigger warning should have been added for the women who went through the trauma of miscarriages.
We wanted to know what you think about this complaint. I will also need your help to understand the Creator’s reasoning behind adding this scene i.e. what was the message that this scene wanted to convey to the viewer. – Email shared by Anurag Kashyap (emphasis added)
What the IT rules require
The rules require streaming services to receive complaints from the public about the content they are streaming. If complainants are not eligible, they can turn to a second tier, a self-regulatory body to which the streaming service is a part. The complaint is then dealt with by a committee chaired by a distinguished person. In the case of Netflix, this is the Grievance Redressal Board of the Indian Digital Publisher Content Grievances Council (DPCGC) of the Internet and Mobile Association, chaired by Judge Arjan Kumar Sikri. If complainants are still not satisfied with the self-regulatory authority’s decision, they can contact an interdepartmental government committee directly, which can order streaming services to remove the content and even consider cases forwarded by other ministries on their own.
Rival self-regulatory authority begins to hear appeals: The IAMAI’s DPCGC isn’t the only self-regulatory agency in the game. The Digital Media Content Regulatory Council (DMCRC) established by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation largely represents streaming services owned by traditional broadcasters such as Hotstar, Zee5, Sony LIV and SunNXT. The DMCRC heard his first appeal on July 6 and dismissed it the next day. The complaint alleged that a trailer for a web series portrayed Sikhs negatively. The DMCRC dismissed the appeal as unfounded, ruling that a trailer was only in place to pique the interest of viewers and such conclusions cannot be drawn from the show itself.