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Netflix, Viacom18 among streaming firms set to oppose India broadcasting bill

A billboard for the Netflix film "Thar" is seen on a street in Mumbai, India, May 19, 2022. Picture taken May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo
A billboard for the Netflix film "Thar" is seen on a street in Mumbai, India, May 19, 2022. Picture taken May 19, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

According to people with knowledge of the situation, Netflix (NFLX.O), Mukesh Ambani’s billionaire-owned Viacom18, and other streaming companies are working together to persuade the Indian government to postpone or modify a broadcast bill that they believe will be burdensome for the sector.

India proposed a new draft law a month ago that would regulate the television industry and apply to large streaming companies. It suggests the establishment of individual content evaluation committees, which would include people hailing from various social groups. These committees would be responsible for reviewing and approving shows before their distribution.

Even though a government-appointed body examines and approves every film that is shown in Indian theaters, content that is streamed is not.

According to the sources, who declined to be named because the discussions were private, top executives from several streaming companies, including Netflix and Viacom18, which operates the JioCinema platform, discussed a plan to approach the government to delay and consider overhauling the bill during a meeting that took place this week behind closed doors.

The measure is currently available for public comment until the 10th of December. According to one of the sources, Netflix and other companies have expressed worry that the content committees would result in excessive pre-screening checks, which will create difficulties for implementation because a large amount of content uploaded to the internet will need to be evaluated beforehand.

In response to a request for comment, Netflix and Viacom18, as well as the Information and Broadcasting Ministry of India, which is the entity that initially proposed the bill, did not respond.

According to the first source, streaming executives raised concerns about the plaw’s potential impact on the business’s expansion during this week’s conference.

According to Media Partners Asia, platforms like Netflix, Amazon (AMZN.O), Disney (DIS.N), and JioCinema will have a $7 billion market value in India by 2027.

The Indian government believes that the new law and the creation of content committees will facilitate “robust self-regulation.” The measure stipulates that only “duly certified” shows would be broadcast and that the government can choose the committee size and the quorum.

A second source stated that there are concerns over the substantial government supervision that is being exercised on streaming sites.

Several of the most well-known Bollywood actors have appeared in Indian streaming programs, some of which have drawn criticism from MPs and the general public for scenes deemed inappropriate or filthy.

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