On Wednesday, Amazon Prime Video launched in India, and one of the questions that was on our mind was whether or not it is censoring any of its content in the country, as a pre-release leak had suggested. At the time, the company only said it would have to check, but after having actually used it, we can confirm that this is very much the case.
Since then, Amazon’s executives have not responded, and neither has its agency - what we do know is that it’s censoring a lot of content. At first, people noticed that sexually explicit content was being blurred, but that’s fairly commonplace practice and doesn’t leave you with missing chunks of information.
However, it turns out that Prime Video is doing a lot more than blurring a few body parts - much like TV channels in India, Amazon is also happily chopping off large parts of shows in order to stay “safe”. For example, the fourth episode of The Grand Tour is listed as only 30 minutes, as opposed to the normal one hour. That’s so that all references to a car made of meat could be excised from the show. That’s right, you lose out on half the show because it might possible offend the sentiments of a few people who chose to sign up for the streaming service, after paying the subscription fee, and then chose to watch the show from out of the thousands of hours of content on offer.
It’s one thing if a few small scenes are cut, or a lot of blurring happens. That’s annoying, and could be handled better, but cutting a show in half in the name of self-censorship seems a bit heavy-handed.
This is rendered all the more confusing when you consider that only this week, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting clarified that it has no plans to censor online streaming services, but it appears that Amazon, alone of all the different VOD platforms, does not believe Indians can be trusted to make responsible choices about the content they consume.