Indonesia’s Telkom blocks Netflix, industry calls for revision
By Masyitha Baziad January 28, 2016
- Telco claims it is protecting the Indonesian consumer
- Modernised policy and regulation needed, says film-maker
SOUTH-East Asia seems intent on becoming the censorship capital of the world, with Indonesia’s largest telecommunications provider PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom) blocking Netflix barely a month after the video streaming service launched in the country.
This follows the Malaysian Government’s decision to block Medium.com after the US-based blog-publishing platform declined its request to take down an article.
Across the Straits of Malacca, Telkom began blocking access to Netflix at midnight, Jan 27. These included all the platforms the telco operates – its Telkomsel mobile network, IndiHome fibre offering, and wiFi.id public wireless access service.
In an official statement, Telkom said it was taking this action to “protect Indonesian consumers from unregulated content that does not comply with the country’s film regulations.”
The company was referring to Article 57 of the Undang-Undang No 33 Tahun 2009 film industry regulation that requires all entertainment and advertising content aired in Indonesia to have a letter of approval from Lembaga Sensor Film (LSF), or the Indonesian Censorship Agency.
“Netflix content needs to comply with the country’s censorship regulation,” said Telkom vice president of corporate communications, Arif Wibowo.
“What we are doing is actually protecting the country and the people from uncensored content.
“This is also a show of support from Telkom, as a state-owned enterprise, for government regulations – we will do our best to protect our consumers,” Arif said in the statement that Digital News Asia (DNA) received on Jan 27.
Telkom said Netflix must ‘legalise’ its business or establish a local business unit in the country that has a direct point of contact with its customers here.
Indonesia’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Rudiantara concurred with Telkom, expressing support via his Twitter account @Rudiantara.
“Netflix is here as a foreign electronic systems operator and it means that it needs to comply with existing regulations.
“One of the key points of the regulations is the obligation to create a permanent establishment in the country,” he tweeted.
This obligation, Rudiantara argued, would help ensure that Netflix complies with the country’s regulations and requirements that cover everything from taxation to its business approach, as well as consumer protection.
“I understand and appreciate Telkom’s corporate action to block access to the streaming service until the Government can come up with policy regarding this issue,” he added.
Even the Indonesian Infocom Society (Mastel) agrees with the censorship decision, reports Ervina Anggraini in Jakarta.
“From the beginning, Mastel has noted that Netflix does not comply with our laws and regulations, and we suggested the Government block the service until it does so comply,” said its chairman Kristiono.
“So what Telkom had done in blocking the Netflix service is simply complying with our expectations,” he said in a statement.
‘Netflix is not the problem’
All the hullabaloo began earlier this month when Netflix Inc chief executive officer Reed Hastings announced at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it would roll out its video streaming service to an additional 130 countries this year.
This includes quite a number of countries in South-East Asia, where the Malaysian-founded iflix and Singaporean-based Hooq are vying for the region’s emerging markets.
READ ALSO: Digi and iflix deepen relationship with bundling pact
Indonesia’s reaction to Neftlix pours cold water on a lot of aspirations. Indonesian writer and filmmaker Joko Anwar (pic above) saw the launch of Netflix in the country as a huge opportunity for both consumers and the film industry.
Joko is currently directing and co-writing the HBO Asia television series Halfworlds.
“We are actually very happy that Netflix is finally here, as Indonesian consumers can now have open and legal access to movies easily, which is going to help stop film piracy in the country,” he told DNA in a telephone call.
“If consumers get more access to more movies, it will only increase opportunities for the local film industry,” he added.
Responding to the Telkom block, Joko said that the action “shows how the country reacts to competition.”
“It’s a total step backwards. Blocking access should not be the way for Telkom to handle this.
“The Government should quickly come up with a temporary policy while working on revising movie industry regulations, especially when it comes to censorship.
“The regulations were enacted in 2009, and since then, we have seen tremendous change in terms of the flow of information.
“Censorship in the country needs to be revisited and modernised, especially when people can already access porn and adult content from any site,” he added.
Joko actually agreed with the requirement that Netflix establish a local business entity, saying “it makes sense,” but added that this could only come later, after the US company has seen the promise of the Indonesian market.
“We need to prove that Indonesia can be a great market for them – not only to get them build their office here, but also for them to cooperate and hopefully get local content into their service,” he argued.
The ICT minister Rudiantara seemed to agree with the points Joko raised, saying on Twitter that there would be many more services like Netflix coming into the country, and that the Government needed to facilitate such market entries with the proper policies.
“We need to create regulations that can keep up with advances in technology – our censorship regulations are still very old-fashioned,” he tweeted.
Rudiantara said that his ministry would collaborate with the Education Ministry to formulate a censorship policy that would accommodate such technological advances, especially where it concerns the content industry.
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