Streamers in India are facing increased levels of scrutiny following a Supreme Court ruling that has prompted SVOD’s including Netflix and Amazon to re-examine shows on their slates in the country.
Foreign streaming services have been in the crosshairs of the government for some time because of their ability to offer shows free of censorship, but the new ruling looks to introduce a ‘screening mechanism’ to control what is available on demand.
The Indian government said in November it would place streamers under the regulatory supervision of the country’s ministry of information and broadcasting, but this latest move highlights a plan for even greater control.
Supreme Court Justice Ashok Bhushan said: “We are of the view there should be some screening of these types (of content). What they are showing? They are showing pornography also.”
Currently, content on streaming platforms is not subject to vetting, but operators must classify shows and movies into five categories based on appropriate age groups.
Global streamer fear
Netflix has recently faced criticism and calls for censorship over its BBC coproduction A Suitable Boy in November, while Amazon last week was forced to issue an apology over its political drama Tandav for allegedly offending Hindu religious beliefs.
As a result of the ongoing scrutiny, Reuters has reported that streamers including Amazon and Netflix are inspecting planned shows and scripts, and deleting scenes that could be controversial in the country.
Amazon’s head of original content in the country, Aparna Purohit, has also submitted an anticipatory bail plea over the Tandav controversy. The plea was declined by a state court, but Purohit has been protected from arrest by the Supreme Court.
The moves come after a year of heavy investment in Indian content, with Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ Hotstar and numerous other international operators spending on originals to entice subscribers.
Amazon has already delayed the latest season of Hindi spy thriller The Family Man as a result of the scrutiny, according to Reuters, while Netflix is also looking to vet their output. The world’s biggest streamer has made no secret of the potential in India, unveiling more than 40 series and features for 2021.
Eight major streaming platforms active in the country signed up to a self-regulation code in 2019 in an attempt to head off further government-imposed restrictions, with prohibitions of content that disrespected the national flag or was intended to offend religious sentiments, among other things, but this failed to garner official support.