Last updated: June 10, 2023, 5:07 AM IST
An Indian group representing Netflix, Amazon and Disney has told the government that the new tobacco warning rules are impossible to implement for streaming giants and will erode content creators’ freedom of expression, a letter accessed by Reuters revealed.
As part of India’s anti-tobacco crackdown, the Health Ministry last month ordered streaming platforms to insert static health warnings during smoking scenes within three months. India also wants at least 50 seconds of anti-tobacco disclaimers, including an audiovisual, at the beginning and middle of each program.
The three companies and JioCinema, billionaire Mukesh Ambani’s streaming platform, were recently part of a private discussion to consider pushback options, including a legal challenge, as executives feared the rules would restrict the editing of millions of hours of Indian and Hollywood content. require.
The amount of multilingual content on platforms “is very high … it is practically impossible to include such warnings in the content,” the letter from the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said.
IAMAI asked the health ministry to reconsider the “heavy” rules, saying a survey had shown viewers were indifferent to depictions of smoking on streaming platforms, the letter said.
Netflix declined to comment, while IAMAI and the other companies did not immediately respond. The Ministry of Health also did not respond.
In addition to Hollywood content, streaming companies Netflix, Amazon, Disney and JioCinema have become increasingly popular in India. Popular Hindi content featuring Bollywood actors on such platforms contains smoking scenes.
Activists have welcomed India’s new rules, saying it would discourage smoking in a country where tobacco kills 1.3 million people every year.
The companies believe that content descriptions — which warn users with a “smoking” label in a video next to the title at the beginning — were more effective, IAMAI said.
The “disruptions” caused by warnings, the group said, were “problematic for creators who made significant investments.”
All scenes involving smoking and alcohol consumption in films in Indian cinemas and on TV are required by law to carry health warnings, but until now there have been no regulations for the streaming giants.
In 2013, Woody Allen stopped showing his film, Blue Jasmine, in India after learning that mandatory anti-tobacco warnings would be inserted into the smoking scenes.
Sanjay Seth of the non-profit Sambandh Health Foundation said there should be no difference in the way smoking is discouraged in cinemas and on digital platforms.
“They have to do this. It will save lives,” Seth said.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and was published from a syndicated news agency feed – Reuters)