Starting March 1, Netflix could find itself in a standoff with the Russian government. The issue: the streaming service has refused to carry 20 free-to-air Russian propaganda channels in light of the Ukraine invasion. As one of the larger streaming companies, Netflix is subject to regulation out of Moscow, which would force the company to comply with a new law that takes effect at the beginning of March and requires the airing of the Russian channels. However, Netflix has announced its intentions not to comply.
“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” a Netflix spokesperson told Variety, which then explained the exact quandary the streaming service now finds itself in:
In December 2021, Netflix was added by the Russian regulator, Roskomnadzor, to its register for audiovisual services because the SVOD reached over 100,000 subscribers. Consequently, Netflix is theoretically required as part of a law — known locally as the Vitrina TV law — to distribute 20 “must-carry” free-to-air Russian news, sports and entertainment TV channels.
The channels include Channel One, NTV and Spa, a channel operated by the Russian Orthodox Church. Channel One is understood to be aligned with the Kremlin and likely to broadcast Putin propaganda, Variety understands.
According to Variety, Netflix is the only streaming service large enough to be affected by the new law. At the time of this writing, Netflix has not revealed what it will do should it face pushback from Moscow to comply and air the propaganda channels. Historically, Putin and his government do not handle resistance lightly, as evidenced by, well, everything happening right now.