India asks Netflix, Disney to review content for obscenity, violence prior to online release

The government highlighted the need for a 'more proactive approach' to ensure that streaming content. Logos of Netflix, Disney and Jio Cinema | Reuters

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked streaming platforms, including Netflix and Disney to independently review content for obscenity and violence before being shown online, according to a government document. The proposal was delivered to the streaming platforms at a June 20 meeting.

The streaming companies, also referred to as OTT platforms, objected and no decision was reached, according to government minutes of the talks and an industry source who attended. The ministry 'highlighted concerns regarding obscene and vulgar content on OTT platforms, as expressed by Members of Parliament, citizen groups, and the general public," said the minutes, which are not public but were seen by Reuters.

Netflix and Amazon have become hugely popular in India, which is set to grow into a $7 billion market for the sector by 2027, according to Media Partners Asia. Top Bollywood stars feature in online material, some of which has faced criticism from lawmakers and the public for scenes deemed vulgar or offensive to religious sentiments. Though all films in Indian cinemas are reviewed and certified by a government-appointed board, streamed content is not.

Officials in the meeting asked the industry to consider an independent panel to review content so that unsuitable material could be weeded out, two people who attended said. The industry objected but the officials asked them to consider the idea. The government highlighted the need for a 'more proactive approach' to ensure that streaming content, 'including international content', aligns with a so-called code of ethics, the minutes showed.

That code already mandates providers to exercise caution on content that could incite violence or be sensitive for religious reasons. The meeting was attended by Amazon, Disney,

Netflix, Reliance's broadcast unit, Viacom18, and Apple TV. The companies and the ministry did not respond to requests for comments.

(With Reuters inputs)

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