Monday, July 22, 2024

Smoking sparks a row between the Indian government, Netflix, Disney and Amazon


Streaming giants Netflix, Amazon and Disney on Friday explored possible legal and other avenues to fend off new smoking warning rules in India, amid fears they would have to redact millions of hours of content already released in India, Reuters cited as saying.

It’s the latest headache for broadcasting giants in India, one of the world’s fastest-growing markets, where the companies often face police lawsuits and complaints over content that sometimes harms religious sentiments.

As part of India’s anti-smoking campaign, the health ministry this week ordered broadcasters to insert standard health warnings during smoking scenes at the center of every program within three months.

Harms the customer experience

In the first signs of a real crisis, executives from three global broadcasters and India’s Viacom, which runs billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s “Gocinema” app, held a closed-door meeting, saying the Netflix rules would hurt the customer experience and hinder production companies. Its content in India, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Executives also discussed possible legal avenues in India to ensure that other ministries — IT, Information and Broadcasting — have responsibilities over broadcasters and not the health ministry, a source said.

The companies and India’s health ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

In fact, by law, all scenes of smoking and alcohol consumption in cinemas and televisions in India require health warnings, but so far there are no restrictions on streaming companies whose content has become popular.

In 2013, Woody Allen stopped showing Blue Jasmine in India after learning that smoking displays would be mandated to include anti-smoking warnings.

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A second source said – during Friday’s meeting – Amazon and other companies made it clear they could not re-edit movies within three months, and the companies decided to consult lawyers and write protest letters.

Documentary director Dylan Mohan Gray called the new Indian rules “harassment”, adding that scenes of murder, war and serious violent crime are not regulated in the same way.

“Smoking — which is certainly a serious public health problem — is a legal source and an enormous source of government revenue in this country,” Gray said.

Activists welcomed the new rules to combat smoking in India, the world’s second-largest producer of tobacco, which kills 1.3 million people in the country every year.


Nadia Barnett
Nadia Barnett
"Award-winning beer geek. Extreme coffeeaholic. Introvert. Avid travel specialist. Hipster-friendly communicator."

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