Egypt sets new rules for Netflix and other platforms to limit 'offensive content'

The decision, announced by the country's highest media regulatory body, comes after similar rulings from six Gulf countries

Egyptian authorities has decided to issue licenses requiring streaming platforms to respect its 'societal norms and values'.  AFP
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Egypt’s highest regulatory body for media has announced a new set of rules on licences issued to streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney Plus, to ensure that the content they offer is in line with Egypt’s “societal norms and values”.

According to a statement from the Supreme Council of Media Regulation, the number of Egyptian users signing up to such platforms is reaching unprecedented levels, which has increased the need for more regulation.

“The council has decided to set up new regulations and licensing requirements on online streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney,” the statement said on Wednesday.

The announcement comes a day after six Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE requested that Netflix remove “offensive content” from its local platform, because such programmes “contradict Islamic and societal values and principles”.

This recent regulatory escalation is presumably the continuation of a struggle between various Arab governments and western streaming platforms, which had thus far been about the prevalence of storylines involving same-sex relationships in the content on offer. Additionally, the streaming platforms were criticised for depicting behaviour that some Arab governments considered promiscuous.

While both the Egyptian statement and the joint Gulf statement did not outline which aspects of the content they find offensive, over the past year Disney in particular has had several of its films removed from Arab cinemas for depicting characters engaging in same-sex relationships.

Several Egyptian commentators have lambasted Disney since last year, accusing it of producing content that is inappropriate for children.

Netflix also came under fire in Egypt last year for an Arabic-language remake of the hit Italian film Perfect Strangers, which depicted a same-sex relationship and an extramarital affair.

Several popular films including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Eternals, West Side Story and Lightyear were not released in cinemas in several Arab countries because of their portrayal of same-sex relationships.

While the Gulf statement threatened the platforms with legal action if inappropriate content continued to be offered to their local audiences, Egypt omitted such a warning from its statement.

Neither streaming platform has publicly commented on the new regulations.

Updated: September 08, 2022, 1:16 PM