Without physical presence in Vietnam, Netflix gets away with dodgy content

By Khuong Nha   March 3, 2023 | 04:31 pm PT
Without physical presence in Vietnam, Netflix gets away with dodgy content
The Netflix app on a smartphone. Photo by VnExpress/Khuong Nha
Streaming platform Netflix is a serial violator of local laws but has escaped penalties simply because it is not a legal entity in the country.

Last October it was criticized for showing the movie "Little Women," which falsifies Vietnamese history. The Ministry of Information and Communications instructed Netflix to stop showing the movie immediately, but it took three days to comply.

Other movies such as "Pine Gap", "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" and "Madam Secretary" contained wrong depictions of the Vietnamese map.

Le Quang Tu Do, director of the Ministry of Information and Communications' broadcasting, television and electronic information department, said the films violated both the Journalism Law and Cinema Law.

However, Netflix again got away without being sanctioned.

The government announced new policies that came into effect this year that require providers of cross-border over-the-top television services to have an office in the country. But two months later Netflix has yet to comply.

Tran Van Uy, chairman of Vietnam Pay Television Association VNPAYTV, said: "Content that falsely depict Vietnamese customs and its lifestyle and map is not allowed on local television channels but is broadcast by Netflix."

Huynh Long Thuy, general director of streaming site VieOn, said cross-border OTT platforms show content that falsifies Vietnamese history and sovereignty and only removed it when instructed by authorities while domestic platforms are fined for the same offense.

Nguyen Ha Yen, deputy director of Broadcasting and Electronic Information Department said: "Authorities are considering blocking Netflix just like pirated film websites. The Ministry will monitor and encourage cross-border OTT services to join the association to resolve this problem."

Currently two American and three Chinese enterprises provide cross-border television services in Vietnam.

"If a cross-border television service provider does not have a representative legal entity in Vietnam, the Ministry will block their access to Vietnam."

However. the ministry has not announced a road map for the ban.

The tightening of regulations is meant to ensure fairness in the paid television service market.

Netflix has not commented on the matter.

Last week Reuters reported that the platform is planning to open an office in Vietnam at the end of this year.

According to ministry statistics, revenues from OTT television services in Vietnam stood at VND1.55 trillion ($65.68 million) in 2022, up 27.2% over 2017.

The number of OTT television subscribers has gone up to 5.5 million, a 26.2% increase in five years.

There are currently 22 local and foreign pay television service providers in Vietnam.

Netflix, which has more than 200 million paid subscribers globally, remains the dominant player.

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