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Netflix rebuffs Russian government’s order to stream state-run channels on its platform

Even though Netflix in Russia is not even a year old, the streaming giant now reportedly faces an uncertain future there.

Netflix will not be complying with the Russian government’s order to broadcast state-run channels on its platform, according to a report in Vulture. The video streaming platform was required to stream 20 Russian federal television stations from March 1 after it was added to a register of “audiovisual services” regulated by the country’s communications regulator, Roskomnadzor last year, Politico Europe reported.

“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” a Netflix spokesperson was quoted as saying.

The requirement was reportedly part of a set of obligations that the Russian government came up with for audiovisual services to air state propaganda. The move can be viewed as part of the misinformation campaign orchestrated by Russia to justify its reasons to wage war on Ukraine in light of economic sanctions.

Netflix’s decision to not comply may compel the Russian government to punish the company with fines. It remains to be seen how Netflix navigates this situation which may end up having implications in other parts of the world, in the context of leveraging streaming platforms to further state propaganda.

How long has Netflix been in Russia?

Netflix launched its local edition for Russia only in the last year. There is no clarity on what will happen to its customer base, Vulture explained.

Some of the channels that Netflix would have been forced to broadcast include Channel One, NTV, and Spas— a channel run by the Russian Orthodox Church, Politico Europe added. Netflix Russia has an estimated subscriber base of close to 1 million, Politico Europe revealed.

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One of the channels that Netflix is being forced to air, Channel One, has ties with the Kremlin. Many of President Putin’s political allies are on the board of the station, it added.

Other major streamers like Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and Disney+ will not be affected by the new Russian mandate, IndieWire reported. Amazon Prime Video is not defined as an official audiovisual service by the Russian government, IndieWire explained, while HBO Max has inked an exclusive deal with Russian streaming service Amediateka to offer HBO productions on their platform.

Netflix suspends its operations in Russia

It was only a matter of time before Netflix would become unavailable in the Russian territory given its decision to not comply with the state directive.

A Netflix spokesperson told Variety that it was suspending the service “given the circumstances on the ground”. The company added that the suspension was a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The streaming service had announced earlier that it would pause all future projects and acquisitions from Russia, Variety added. Netflix had four Russian originals currently underway, according to Variety. It remains to be seen what is the impact of this decision on Netflix which considers Russia as one of its major markets.

Big tech companies run afoul of Russian Government

Netflix is not the only company which has moved to limit the use of its platform to further Russian propaganda.

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Meta: The world’s most popular social media company published a blog that is updated every day with the measures taken by the company which include:

  • Restricting access to RT and Sputnik across EU: Meta said that it will restrict Russian state-controlled media RT and Sputnik across the EU given the exceptional nature of the current situation. It added that it is prohibiting ads from Russian state media and demonetizing their accounts.
  • Fact-check labels on posts by state-controlled media: Meta said that it has refused an order from the Russian authorities to stop the independent fact-checking and labelling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state media organizations.
  • Takedown of network spreading misinformation and fake news: Meta on February 27 announced that it took down a network run by people in Ukraine and Russia for coordinated inauthentic behaviour. “They ran websites posing as independent news entities and created fake personas across many social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram, Odnoklassniki and VK,” the company said.

Russia has not taken well to Meta’s measures, and is throttling access to Facebook and Instagram in the country.

Twitter: The microblogging platform has been blocked by the Russian government because of the measures it took against Russian misinformation. In a thread, Twitter shared some of these measures:

  • Labels on Tweets sharing links to Russian state-affiliated media websites: The company said that it is adding labels on tweets that share links to Russian state-affiliated media websites and is taking steps to significantly reduce the circulation of this content on Twitter.
  • Pausing advertisements in Ukraine and Russia: Twitter said that it is temporality pausing ads in Russia and Ukraine to ensure critical public safety information is elevated and ads don’t detract from it.
  • Proactive review of content for platform manipulation: Twitter is proactively reviewing tweets to detect platform manipulation and is taking enforcement action against them.

Google: Russia has demanded that Google restore access to Russian media’s YouTube channels in the Ukrainian territory after they were blocked by the company. The search giant has also enacted the following measures:

  • No ad monetisation by Russian state-controlled media: Google on February 26 barred Russia’s state-owned media outlet RT and other channels from receiving money for ads on their websites, apps and YouTube videos.
  • Russian media cannot buy ads: Google also said that Russian media will not be able to buy ads through Google Tools or place ads on Google services.

*Disclaimer: The post was updated on March 7, 2022, at 17:29 to reflect Netflix’s exit from the Russian territory.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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