Drilon says MTRCB plan to regulate Netflix impractical, costly

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Sen. Franklin M. Drilon has slammed the plan of the Movies and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to regulate streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

“I am opposed to it. Instead of regulating Netflix and other streaming platforms, MTRCB should continue to allow them and other media to self-regulate content,” Drilon said.

“It’s very impractical. There are thousands of shows on Netflix alone — how will MTRCB review each one? Can the MTRCB review every single content that can be accessed through the Internet? What will they do about virtual private networks that allow users to access content from other countries? If they insist on it, then taxpayers will be paying MTRCB only to stream movies and shows 24/7, 365 days,” he added.

In such a setup, reliance on self-regulating mechanisms would suffice, Drilon said.

“The MTRCB is a martial law creation. It has been institutionalized as a tool for censorship. It is unfortunate that MTRCB has not been able to evolve and rise above its martial law origins inclined towards censorship and has not been a driver of self-regulation in the industry. It should focus its efforts on being an instrument to improve the quality of content being produced, instead of being a tool for censorship,” Drilon stressed.

Drilon recalled that the MTRCB was formed at a time when the movie and television industry was on the brink of economic collapse as emphasized in PD 1986, wherein unbridled sex and violence in movies were the norm.

“I’d like to believe that the industry today has achieved the maturity that PD 1986 sought to see. They can ably self-regulate their content,” he added.

The MTRCB was created with the expectation outlined in the Presidential Decree, that “through the participation of industry leaders, the industry can eventually self-regulate after it has demonstrated its maturity, self-reliance and dependability”, he noted, adding it was meant to regulate those who were, at the time, unable to regulate their content. The goal has always been self-regulation by the industry, he said.

Drilon noted that Netflix has self-regulation mechanisms that are not present in, and are perhaps, more effective than the regulation or classification in television. Netflix classifies shows based on whether these are for General Patronage, Parental Guidance, 7 and above, 16 and up, R-18 and so on.

The ratings are very specific, he noted. Upon subscription to Netflix, the parents can set what content their children can view. It has mechanisms that limit children’s access — a feature that free TV does not have, he noted.

“If the platform is able to effectively self-regulate and has installed features through which access, particularly by certain age groups can be limited, then there is no role left for the MTRCB to play”, Drilon added.

The Constitution prohibits censorship on content as it is tantamount to prior restraint and infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, according to Drilon.

While the court upheld the power of the MTRCB to regulate and even impose some prior restraint on radio and television shows, Drilon argued that the environment through which these streaming services operate is much different from television and radio.

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