India to regulate streaming services, online content

Published November 12, 2020
In this 2016 file photo, commuters watch videos on their mobile phones as they travel in a train in Mumbai. — Reuters
In this 2016 file photo, commuters watch videos on their mobile phones as they travel in a train in Mumbai. — Reuters

India’s federal government will regulate content on video streaming platforms, including global services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Walt Disney’s Hotstar, as part of rules announced this week.

India’s ministry of information and broadcasting will oversee streaming video content, which was previously unregulated, a brief government circular said on Tuesday, without providing further details.

Earlier this year, more than a dozen local and global streaming services, including Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hotstar, had signed a code for self-regulation.

India’s internet and mobile lobby group, and Netflix declined to comment, while Amazon and Hotstar did not respond to requests for comment.

Filmmaker Vikram Malhotra said the industry will have to “wait and watch” how the government’s regulation of online content unfolds.

“My only concern is that rules that currently govern access to content as well as its creation and distribution on other platforms, cannot and should not be simply applied to the online medium,” said Malhotra, whose studio Abunduntia Entertainment produces films and shows, including for Amazon Prime Video.

Streaming services have gained traction in India because of the availability of affordable smartphones and cheap mobile data, making the South Asian nation a battleground for Amazon, Netflix and Disney as they seek to expand outside their home markets.

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