Due to new media regulations, the streaming service Netflix will also be forced to show Putin propaganda from Kremlin-affiliated channels from March 2022. Russia’s communications and media regulator Roskomnadzor had already included the streaming service in a catalog of audiovisual services last year, which will take effect from March 01.
Netflix with Putin propaganda constraint
Streaming services that can boast at least 100,000 users per day were included in the targeted catalog. Those in the Russia-imposed catalog will be forced to stream from 20 state-run television channels from Russia.
The channels include, for example, the First Channel (Perwy kanal), NTV and the Spas channel, which is run by the Russian Orthodox Church, according to the Moscow Times. The First Channel is Russia’s widest-reach TV station and is considered to have particularly close ties to the Kremlin; several close political allies of President Vladimir Putin also sit on the station’s board.
Among them, for example, Sergei Naryshkin, head of Russia’s foreign intelligence service SWR, and Alexei Gromov, deputy chief of staff of the Russian presidential administration. Gromov previously served as press secretary to Putin, among others, and is responsible for producing Russia’s state propaganda, as well as the country’s extensive censorship program.
Will Netflix comply?
Speaking to online magazine Politico late this week, Netflix would not comment on whether it would follow the new rules. The streaming provider can boast around one million subscribers in the country, according to payers at the company responsible for Russia.
Experts, however, do not expect Netflix to pull out of Russia. In Russia, Netflix has already entered into several partnerships, for example, with the state-affiliated media holding company Nationale Mediengruppe (NMG), they said. That’s what Brussels-based media researcher Catalina Lordache told Politico.
At the same time, she said, the company has poured comparatively large sums of money into Russian in-house productions such as the Anna K. series. Together with the high number of subscribers, a Netflix exit in Russia is considered rather unlikely, despite the circulation.
The propaganda squeeze is worrisome for the West. The government in Moscow is currently already using media to spread targeted disinformation and cause confusion in the war against Ukraine. With Netflix’s involvement, this would be given even more reach.
At the same time, Netflix is already facing a fine of up to one million rubles and a block in Russia. The Kremlin cites the dissemination of “propaganda about non-traditional sexual relationships” as the reason, citing series about LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) topics.