India has informed streaming services like Netflix, Disney, and others that their content should undergo independent reviews for obscenity and violence prior to being available online. A government document and sources confirm the proposal was presented to these platforms during a meeting held on June 20 at the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The streaming companies, also known as OTT platforms, objected to the proposal, and no consensus was reached during the meeting, according to government records and an industry insider present at the discussion.
The minutes of the meeting, which are not publicly available, state that the ministry expressed concerns over explicit and vulgar content on OTT platforms. These concerns were raised by Members of Parliament, citizen groups, and the general public. India has seen a significant rise in the popularity of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, with the market projected to reach $7 billion by 2027, according to Media Partners Asia.
Online content featuring top Bollywood stars has faced criticism from lawmakers and the public for scenes deemed vulgar or offensive to religious sentiments. While films screened in Indian cinemas undergo review and certification by a government-appointed board, streamed content does not.
During the meeting, officials urged the industry to consider the establishment of an independent panel to evaluate content and filter out unsuitable material. Industry representatives objected to the proposal, but the officials insisted on its consideration. The government emphasized the need for a more proactive approach to ensure that streaming content, including international content, adheres to a code of ethics. The code already requires providers to exercise caution regarding content that could incite violence or be sensitive for religious reasons.
The meeting was attended by representatives from Amazon, Disney, Netflix, Reliance’s broadcast unit, Viacom18, and Apple TV. Both the companies and the ministry did not provide any comments in response to requests for clarification.
These discussions indicate increased scrutiny of India’s rapidly expanding streaming market. The proposal emerges amidst streaming giants’ protest against a government directive to include 50-second tobacco health warnings in all content. Additionally, it follows a government order from two years ago that mandated the establishment of self-regulatory bodies to address complaints about streaming content.
Industry executives consider India’s streaming regulations to be among the strictest globally. During an event in April, when the government announced a partnership with Amazon to promote film and television, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur stated that streaming platforms should not promote vulgarity and abusive content disguised as creative expression. Thakur acknowledged an increase in complaints about obscene content and expressed the government’s willingness to modify regulations if necessary to tackle the issue.
Furthermore, Indian officials proposed the formation of an expert panel to determine age ratings instead of platforms assigning them themselves. The minutes revealed that the platforms assured they would implement robust parental controls and exercise caution regarding the suitability of international content.
During the meeting, Suhasini Maniratnam from the Digital Publisher Content Grievance Council voiced concerns that pre-censorship could impede industry growth and result in job losses. Given the substantial volume of content, she emphasized the need for targeted actions against obscene and vulgar material.