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Netflix and Amazon Take Different Sides on Content Regulation in India

Netflix and other leading streaming video platforms have signed an agreement to self-regulate content in the booming Indian market. But Amazon and Facebook are so far sitting out.

The new “Code of Best Practices for Online Curated Content Providers,” created by the Internet and Mobile Assn. of India, has been signed by Netflix, Hotstar, Sony Liv, Eros Now, Arre, Alt Balaji and Voot. Under the agreement, the streamers will not exhibit content that disrespects the Indian flag, shows children engaged in real or simulated sex, offends religious sentiments, promotes terrorism or contains officially banned material.

But Amazon Prime Video has opted not to sign up to the code, contending that existing Indian laws are sufficient for dealing with disapproved content.

OTT content does not currently fall under India’s often draconian censorship rules, which are administered by the country’s Central Board of Film Certification. There have been rumors that India’s information and broadcasting ministry is considering subjecting OTT content to the same rules.

Content regulation is already a fraught issue in a country where religious feelings run high and those who feel offended often bring legal action against alleged offenders. The release of dozens of films has been affected by court cases and attempted injunctions. Last year, the theatrical release of historical epic “Padmavati” was delayed by protesters who anticipated that it would hurt their feelings. While the release went ahead some weeks later, it was forced to change its title to “Padmaavat.”

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Currently, Netflix is facing a lawsuit over the portrayal of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in its hit original series “Sacred Games,” based on the novel by Vikram Chandra.

“The self regulation code is a set of guiding principles for participating companies like us. It ensures an environment that protects the artistic vision of content producers so that their work can be seen by their fans,” Netflix said in a statement sent to Variety. “The code also empowers consumers to make viewing choices that are right for them and their families. With the growth of entertainment choices today, it has never been a better time to be a creator or consumer of entertainment and we firmly believe there must be the freedom to create and the freedom to choose.”

The Indian OTT market is expected to be worth $5 billion by 2023, according to a report by Boston Consulting Group.

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