New Delhi (India), 3rd June 2023: Streaming behemoths Netflix, Amazon, and Disney met privately on Friday to explore a possible legal challenge and other measures to postpone India’s new cigarette and Tobacco warning guidelines, amid fears of having to modify and edit millions of hours of old web content.
The backlash is the latest difficulty for streaming behemoths in India, a fast-growing market. Companies frequently face legal action and police complaints because their content occasionally offends religious sensibilities, and many have self-censored content throughout the years.
As part of India’s anti-tobacco campaign, the health ministry this week directed streaming providers to include static health warnings during smoking sequences within three months. Additionally, India requires at least 50 seconds of anti-tobacco disclaimers, including an audio-visual, at the beginning and halfway of each programme.
According to two sources familiar with the discussions, executives from the three global streaming companies, as well as India’s Viacom18, which runs billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s JioCinema app, held a closed-door meeting where Netflix said the rules would harm customer experience and force production houses to block their content in India.
According to one of the insiders, executives in India reportedly considered prospective legal challenges to contend that other ministries – IT and information and broadcasting – have authority over streaming companies but not the health ministry.
All smoking and alcohol drinking sequences in Indian cinemas and on television are already required by law, but there have been no controls for the streaming giants, whose programming has become increasingly popular.
Woody Allen halted the screening of his film Blue Jasmine in India in 2013 after learning that statutory anti-tobacco warnings will be put into its smoking sequences.
According to the second source, during the Friday discussion, Amazon and other companies stated that there was no way films could be edited in three months, and the industry resolved to consult lawyers and submit letters in protest.