Why MTRCB is eyeing to regulate content of Netflix, other streaming services

September 4, 2020 - 12:07 PM
A smartphone with the Netflix logo lies in front of displayed "Streaming service" words in this illustration taken March 24, 2020. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/File Photo)

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) mulled on regulating the content in digital streaming platforms including Netflix, a proposal which drew backlash online.

Jonathan Presquito, chief of MTRCB Legal Affairs Division, told the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship that Netflix, iflix and other similar providers are under the agency’s jurisdiction for review.

He explained that all materials that contained a “motion picture” regardless of the medium of distribution should be regulated by the MTRCB.

“Streaming services like Netflix are video-on-demand platforms, and we have to regulate those platforms. We have to ensure that those materials being shown on those platforms are compliant with the MTRCB law,” Presquito said.

In line with the regulation, MTRCB still wants the streaming service industry in the country to flourish.

Presquito also noted that they also don’t want their proposed policies to clash with existing measures.

“We don’t want to create an impression that MTRCB will be violating the other laws of the Philippines na halimbawa si Netflix irerehistro sa MTRCB and yet Netlfix won’t comply with SEC law on doing business, won’t comply with the BIR law on registration, won’t comply with the local government regulations, mayor’s permit,” he said.

Netflix, considered as the most popular streaming provider in the world, previously gained nearly 16 million subscribers during the first quarter of 2020 and continues to grow amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This spike happened as various governments including the Philippines imposed strict lockdowns to control the spread of the deadly virus which causes COVID-19.

Other similar platforms that are available in the country are iflix from Malaysia, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and YouTube Premium.

Objections on proposed regulation

The name “MTRCB” immediately reached the Philippine Trends on Twitter following reports of Presquito’s proposal with over 4,600 tweets under its belt.

Several Filipinos, particularly subscribers of Netflix, questioned MTRCB for the sudden proposal of regulating digital content from these firms.

“Youtube nga hindi kaya i-moderate ang entire platform nila. I don’t see why rules will apply to Netflix but not Youtube or FB video streaming,” one user said.

“MTRCB really pushing Filipinos to watch on pirated sites instead. As if regulating Netflix would stop these people from searching on illegal sites or torrents. Either they’re stupid or bored out of their minds to suggest this,” another wrote.

“What’s this with the MTRCB? They want to regulate content on Netflix and other streaming devices. They have no respect for the intelligence of subscribers to determine what is good or immoral content,” another user said.

What is MTRCB’s mandate?

As indicated in its mandate, the type of materials that MTRCB has jurisdiction over is quite comprehensive.

“All motion pictures, television programs and commercials intended for public exhibition in theaters and television, and related publicity materials and/or promotional materials, whether imported or produced in the Philippines, for the purpose of local viewing or for export, shall be subject to review and classification by the BOARD before they are exported, copied, distributed, sold, leased and exhibited,” the 2004 amended implementing rules and regulations of Presidential Decree 1986 that created MTRCB reads.

In general, MTRCB’s classification or ratings are as follows:

  • Gadvises parents or supervising adults that the film or television program is suitable for all audiences
  • PGadvises parents or supervising adults that the film or television program may contain any of the following: themes, language, violence, nudity, sex, and horror, whose treatment is suitable for children below thirteen years of age
  • R-13: only viewers who are thirteen years old and above can be admitted to watch the film
  • R-16 and R-18: only viewers who are either 16 or 18 years old and above can be admitted to watch the film
  • SPG for television programs: Television programs may contain more serious topics and themes, which may not be advisable for children to watch except under the very vigilant guidance and presence of a parent or an adult.

Netflix regulation in other countries

Other countries also have their own rating systems for digital content being distributed through streaming providers available to their residents.

In the case of Netflix, countries such as Turkey, India, South Korea and Indonesia have regulated certain scenes and even pulled out other releases that are not approved by their regulatory boards.

Netflix had been particularly at odds with Asian markets due to the differences in political, religious and moral landscapes following its global roll-out in 2016.