Netflix has long had access to Marvel IPs through its relationship with Disney, and their acquisition of Millarworld is an insurance against that deal’s end. Source: AP

Southeast Asian governments grapple with censoring Netflix

WITH Netflix’s global expansion last Wednesday, some governments in Southeast Asia are grappling with censoring its content in a region where socially conservative mores rule the day.

The popular video-streaming service’s long-awaited foray into the region was lauded by many. But its unfiltered and often risque content present a direct challenge to governments which are long used to strict curbs on media for reasons ranging from morality to social harmony.

In Indonesia, the chairman of the country’s censorship agency (LSF) stated that some of the movies available through Netflix are inappropriate for viewers. According to Tempo, he stated Netflix had yet to seek the necessary approval for its content or obtain operating licenses from the Communication and Informatics Ministry.

“We reminded [Netflix] if they don’t want to apply for licenses, then don’t enter [Indonesia],” Ahmad Yani Basuki said.

Netflix also faces regulatory challenges in Malaysia. On one hand, local news portal Malay Mail Online published a statement by an unnamed Netflix support expert that “there will not be censorship within the shows that are available”.

On the other, the country’s Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak said Netflix may suffer legal action from Malaysia’s online regulatory body should it provide offensive content and breach content standards.

He said that new legal provisions may be introduced to regulate content providers like Netflix, according to news reports.

Singaporean authorities were more positive, but remained guarded. While the country’s Media Development Authority (MDA) welcomed Netflix’s entry into the city-state, it said it “will continue to work with Netflix to provide viewers with more informed choices and put in place measures to safe-guard the young from inappropriate content,” reported the Straits Times.

Overall, the outcome of this tug-of-war between Netflix and regional governments is far from certain. Vague and contradictory statements indicate that all sides are keeping their cards close to their chest, and are unlikely to unveil what they are comfortable with until negotiations are in full gear.

What is likely is a country-by-country solution with varying levels of censorship – an ironic counterpoint to the globalized and streamlined nature of Netflix that made it so popular in the first place.