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SE Asia censors take on Netflix

News, 15 January 2016

JAKARTA: The global rollout of Netflix has put pressure on South East Asia's media licensing and censorship bodies as they grapple with how to regulate international content.

Netflix's decision to roll out its product internationally – in the process flouting many country's strict licensing and censoring processes – has caused an uproar in the region.

As Asia woke to a wealth of uncensored content last week, some governments – seemingly caught by surprise - were left scrambling.

In many markets, Netflix is exempt from getting a licence to operate as it is an over-the-top content application (OTT) provider, but some have still taken issue with Netflix content which includes nudity, sex, drugs or LGBT themes.

According to Asian Correspondent, Indonesia's censorship agency (LSF) has stated that some Netflix content is inappropriate for Indonesian viewers, and that Netflix had not sought government approval to operate there. And a report by Indonesian newspaper Tempo said that the country's censorship agency had urged the Indonesian government to ban Netflix from the country.

Meanwhile in socially conservative Malaysia, urgent new regulations may be introduced to manage Netflix, with the site potentially facing legal action for any content breaches. The Malaysian government enforces stringent moral and political content guidelines across many mediums.

The arrival of Netflix was welcome news for many television junkies in the region. With their favourite TV shows now available almost instantly online, young consumers in particular are unwilling to wait months for approved versions of shows to be available locally – if they are even made available at all.

With the use of VPN networks widespread, however, consumers who want to watch unrestricted content are easily able to find it.

Piracy also remains an issue in South East Asia: a 2014 survey by Sycamore Research and Marketing revealed that almost three-quarters (74%) of 19-24 year olds in Singapore regularly downloaded or streamed pirated music, movies or TV shows.

But there is evidence that the availability of legal, high-quality video services can lead to a reduction in piracy.

Data sourced from Asian Correspondent, Malay Mail, Tempo, Mashable; additional content by Warc staff