Streaming giants Netflix and Viacom18 to challenge India’s broadcasting bill

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Netflix, Viacom18, and others to oppose Indian broadcasting bill, sources confirm.

INDIA, Dec 2: Netflix, along with Viacom18, owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, and other streaming companies, is reportedly planning to jointly lobby the Indian government to reconsider a draft broadcast law, which they believe could be burdensome for the sector. The new draft law, introduced last month, aims to regulate the broadcasting sector and includes provisions that will also apply to streaming giants. The proposed law suggests the creation of content evaluation committees, comprising members from various social groups, who will review and approve shows before release. Unlike films in Indian cinemas, which undergo certification by a government-appointed board, streamed content currently does not face such scrutiny.

In a closed-door meeting held this week, high-level executives from leading streaming companies, including Netflix and Viacom18 (which operates the JioCinema platform), discussed a strategy to approach the government with concerns about the bill. The executives are considering requesting a delay in its implementation and potentially an overhaul. The bill is open for public consultation until December 10.

Sources familiar with the matter highlighted Netflix’s and others’ concerns that the proposed content committees might lead to excessive pre-screening checks. This could pose implementation challenges, given the large volume of content released online that would need to be reviewed. Despite the potential impact on industry growth, Netflix, Viacom18, and the Indian Information and Broadcasting Ministry, which proposed the law, have not responded to requests for comment.

Executives in the closed-door meeting expressed concerns about the law’s potential negative effects on the industry’s growth. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Disney, and JioCinema have gained immense popularity in India. The industry is anticipated to grow into a $7 billion market by 2027, according to Media Partners Asia.

The Indian government contends that the new law and the creation of content committees are essential for “robust self-regulation.” The bill allows the government to define the committee’s size and quorum, and only “duly certified” shows will be permitted for broadcast. However, industry insiders worry about extensive government oversight of streaming platforms.

Indian streaming shows, featuring top Bollywood stars, have faced criticism from lawmakers and the public for scenes considered vulgar or offensive. This has heightened concerns about potential censorship and creative restrictions with the introduction of the new law.

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