As it seeks to grow in India, Netflix will censor itself to avoid a crackdown on offensive content

Netflix‘Sacred Games’
  • Netflix has agreed to a new code of conduct in India to avoid a censorship crackdown.
  • Among other things, the new code prohibits content that promotes violence against India, and content that purposefully offends the religion of any group.
  • Netflix ran into legal trouble in India last year with its first Indian original series, “Sacred Games,” for an unflattering reference to the country’s former Prime Minister.
  • The streaming giant is trying to break out in the region, and announced eight new Indian original movies in November.

Netflix has set its sights on India in an effort to break through in Asia and in pursuit of that goal, the streaming giant will now self-censor.

India has strict regulations on film and TV, but no streaming rules yet. Netflix has agreed to a new, voluntary self-regulatory code of conduct in the country to be overseen by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), likely to avoid a potential censorship crackdown, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Netflix said in a statement to THR:

“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. 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.”

According to THR, the code of conduct prohibits content that portrays children engaged in sexual activities; content that disrespects the national emblem or flag; content that purposefully offends the religion of any group; and content that promotes terrorism or violence against India.

Since Netflix can’t operate out of China without a local partner, it’s betting big on India after struggling to break out in Asian markets. At its first content showcase in the region in November, Netflix announced 17 new Asian originals, eight of which were Indian original movies, including one starring Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “Lion”) called “Hotel Mumbai.”

But the company already ran into issues last year with its first Indian original series, “Sacred Games,” which faced controversy over an unflattering reference to India’s assassinated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. A petition was filed in Delhi High Court July for Netflix to remove any scenes from “Sacred Games” that reference Gandhi. The case is still ongoing.

Despite the legal trouble, Netflix is going forward with a second season of “Sacred Games.”

Netflix has faced criticism elsewhere due to censorship. It recently removed an episode of Hasan Minhaj’s “Patriot Act” in Saudi Arabia. The episode mocked the kingdom for allegedly covering up journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. Saudi Arabia accused Netflix of violating its cybercrime law.

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