Egypt stresses need to respect societal values as it licences foreign streaming platforms

Zeinab El-Gundy , Wednesday 7 Sep 2022

The Supreme Council of Media Regulation (SCMR) announced on Wednesday that it will issue regulations and licences for streaming and online platforms, while stressing that broadcast material must not contravene the country's social values.

This file photo taken on July 19, 2022, shows an illustration image of the Netflix logo on a TV remote control in Los Angeles. AFP


“The licence and regulations require a commitment to the societal values and traditions of the country, and stipulate the necessary actions to be taken in case of the broadcasting of material that contravene the values of society,” the SCMR said.

In recent months, some Western streaming platforms have come under fire  by many viewers in the Arab World for streaming controversial content in the region, including works that featured LGBTQ characters and topics.  

Some viewers recently launched an online campaign calling on Arab parents not to subscribe to the Disney Plus platform due to its LGBTQ content.

Egypt, and also some Arab Gulf countries, had previously banned the Disney Plus film Lightyear from screening in movie theatres for featuring an LGBTQ character.

This made Lightyear the latest in a host of Disney films to be banned from movie theatres in the Arab world following the banning of the latest Marvel film series 'Eternals' and 'Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness'.

However, both films are available on Disney Plus online platform in the Arab region. 

In recent years, a growing number of foreign streaming media platforms, including Netflix, Vu, Shahid VIP, OSN Plus, Jawwy TV, Vu, BeIN, STARZPLAY, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime, streamed to millions of viewers in the country. 

In January, Netflix faced criticism from many in Egypt and around the Arab World after streaming its first Arabic film Ashab Wala Aaz that featured a female character who displayed non-conventional behaviour as well as an LGBTQ character.

The film trended in several Arab countries for weeks. 

COVID and the internet

The number of internet users in Egypt jumped considerably since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of internet users in Egypt in July 2022 reached 82 million, up from 63.4 million in January 2021, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology in August 2022.

The National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA) reported that during the month of Ramadan, which ended early May 2022, mobile internet usage increased by a 68 percent and the number of viewers of of entertainment content increased by 76 percent.

Movies and TV series streamed via video on demand platforms (SVOD) such as Netflix, Shahid and the locally-based Watch It attracted 33 million viewers in Ramadan 2022, with viewing hours reaching a record 12.9 hours-a-day - an increase of 76 percent compared to Ramadan 2021, according to the NTRA.

On Tuesday, Gulf states including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also issued a warning to the global streaming giant Netflix not to broadcast content that contravene Islamic and societal values, threatening legal actions if such content was not removed.  

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