The entertainment industry in the country has become divided over whether to censor web series content.
Three new web dramas - Shihab Shaheen's "14th August," Sumon Anowar's "Sadar Ghater Tiger" and Wahid Tarek's "Boomerang" – gave birth to the debate because of "violent" and "sexual" scenes depicted in them.
On June 21, 79 eminent cultural personalities of the country published a statement essentially taking a stand against explicit content in web dramas.
The statement read: "From the beginning of Bangladeshi drama, we made family-friendly content, content that everyone can enjoy together at home. We have to keep in mind that in the '80s, the Bangladeshi film industry lost a big part of its audience because of obscenity. It is time we learned from our previous mistakes. If the TV industry also loses audience for the same reason, it would be very unfortunate."
Veterans Mamunur Rashid, Aly Zaker, Abul Hayat, Dilara Zaman, Ferdousi Mazumder, Asaduzzaman Noor, ATM Samsuzzaman, Dr Enamul Haque, Mustafa Monwar, Tanvin Sweety, Tareen Jahan, Chanchal Chowdhury, Jewel Aich were among the 79 distinguished figures who released the statement.
Speaking to The Business Standard, veteran actor and director Mamunur Rashid said, "We don't want censorship to be imposed but we hope directors or contents creators will have some kind of self –censorship so that their contents won't have any negative impact on society."
On the other hand, 117 renowned content makers issued another statement calling for a specific guideline on issues of content, keeping in mind the global context.
Released on June 19, the statement contains opinions of film-makers like Morshedul Islam, Giasuddin Selim, Animesh Aich, Naznin Hasan Chumki, Redoan Rony, among others.
According to them, "Piracy is the main reason that we have been discussing this in recent times. These web series are supposed to be shown by streaming sites with consent of the viewers. As we know, the content is spreading through some other social media, including YouTube, only because of piracy. The entire series has not been pirated but a few parts of it with special scenes was pirated. As a consequence, an opportunity for a kind of misinterpretation of the artists, crew and producers involved has been created."
Giasuddin Selim told The Business Standard, "We don't want the industry to be divided on the issue, specially when the web-series industry is growing rapidly. We want good content; perhaps, the controversial series were released at a wrong time."
Producers' of small screen stated in a press release, "Basically, it is not a difficult task to choose which content is appropriate for a suitable audience if you follow age-based guidelines on platforms."
"We also think that we have to create content with local traditions and values. Content which is prepared for a specific platform must be served to that audience; otherwise a group of people will intentionally show a specific part of the actual content with the help of piracy to stir a controversy and divert the audience's focus from the main discussion. Unfortunately, if this happens, the medium will stumble from the get-go."
"According to a survey conducted by BTRC and PI Strategy last year, there are over two lakh Netflix subscribers in Bangladesh. As a result, Netflix has created a market of around Tk 200 crore annually without investing in a single content in Bangladesh. Netflix has not invested a single penny in the entertainment sector of Bangladesh yet."