Netflix says it won’t air Kremlin TV channels inside Russia, defying new government directive

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Netflix said Monday it would not stream Russian federal television channels, in apparent defiance of a Kremlin directive it was about to fall under starting Wednesday.

Netflix was added to an audiovisual services register last year by Russia’s internal media watchdog and censorship organ, Roskomnadzor, since it has more than 100,000 daily users. Starting March 1, Netflix was to be required to air streams of 20 Russian state TV channels inside the country, including the widely watched Channel One, Politico reported.

“Given the current situation, we have no plans to add these channels to our service,” a Netflix spokesperson told Fox News Digital on Monday, shortly after an earlier version of this article was published.

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Fox News Digital inquired what Netflix will do if Russia restricts its operations as a result and will update if the company responds.

It is unclear how falling under the Russian watchdog’s thumb could affect other content from Netflix. The streaming giant, which has a wide series of LGBT-themed content, was investigated last year for violating the country’s “gay propaganda” law.

Kremlin-controlled media such as Channel One have enthusiastically touted the pro-Vladimir Putin line justifying the invasion of Ukraine, often repeating the claim that the attack is about efforts to “denazify” Ukraine.

Fox News contributor Karol Markowicz, who was born in the former Soviet Union, said earlier on Monday that Netflix shouldn’t cooperate.

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“I’ve been fairly outspoken that Russian companies, like Russian Standard vodka, should not be boycotted in the United States,” she told Fox News Digital. “It makes no sense to punish Russians, who do not live in freedom and democracy, for the sins of their despotic leader. But broadcasting state TV on Netflix is another issue entirely. Netflix should absolutely pull out of Russia and send a message that they will not be the conduit of Russian propaganda.”

The progressive-leaning company has at times made headlines over political and cultural issues, such as when a small amount of employees staged a walkout in protest of comedian Dave Chappelle’s transgender jokes in his 2021 Netflix special, “The Closer.” 

Netflix launched a Black Lives Matter section in 2020 following the protests over the police murder of George Floyd, and its political content largely skews left, such as the documentary “Knock Down The House” that in part explored Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset congressional primary victory in 2018, a Colin Kaepernick-narrated drama series “Colin in Black & White,”and series for liberal comedians like Michelle Wolf, Chelsea Handler, and Hasan Minhaj.

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Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama did not respond to request for comment from Fox News Digital on the situation. The Obamas formed the production company Higher Ground Productions in 2018 and signed a multi-year deal to produce content for Netflix.

Obama gave a statement harshly condemning Russia for invading Ukraine last week.

“People of conscience around the world need to loudly and clearly condemn Russia’s actions and offer support for the Ukrainian people. And every American, regardless of party, should support President Biden’s efforts, in coordination with our closest allies, to impose hard-hitting sanctions on Russia — sanctions that impose a real price on Russia’s autocratic elites,” he wrote.

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Netflix’s extensive collection of content includes other material that wouldn’t please Russian authorities, including documentaries like 2015’s “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” – which depicts the protests that led to the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych after he pursued closer ties with Russia instead of the European Union –, and “How to Become a Tyrant,” which includes a section on brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who has been the focus of a Kremlin image rehabilitation effort in recent years.

This article was updated with a comment from Netflix.

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