Monday, December 11, 2023

Senators want to include online streaming under MTRCB mandate

Senators Chiz Escudero and Allan Peter Cayetano are backing the proposal to expand and strengthen the role of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), including the power to block inappropriate contents on video streaming platforms that do not fit the moral values of Filipinos.

Escudero articulated his support during plenary debates on Tuesday, Nov.7, on the 2024 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) where the MTRCB’s budget was discussed.

Escudero has sought clarification on the power of the MTRCB to prohibit X-rated films online from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, sponsor of the regulatory body’s spending package for next year.

According to Estrada, the MTRCB could only ban subject films or movies from public showing in theaters and television under Presidential Decree 1986, which created the MTRCB, and Republic Act 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act.

However, Escudero said the body has no power to prohibit X-rated films from public exhibition on the Internet.

He also pointed out that it is not within the competence of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to ascertain that certain contents or sites should not be allowed.

“The point I am driving at is that it is not within the core competence of the DICT and I think at some point in time the MTRCB should be brought into the picture either via the bill of Sen. (Robinhood) Padilla or by an amendment to the law,” Escudero said.

Earlier, MTRCB chairperson Lala Sotto-Antonio disclosed that with its limited jurisdiction at present, the agency can only make endorsements while it is the DICT or the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) which have the power to order a takedown of inappropriate contents.

There are five proposals pending in the upper chamber, including Senate Bill No. 1940 or the MTRCB Act of 2023 authored by Padilla, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media.

In his bill, Padilla stressed the need for the MTRCB to “address the changing demands of our time.”

Cayetano, for his part, encouraged MTRCB to conduct a study on how it can ensure that Filipino values are maintained in digital content.

He stressed that with the widespread use of the Internet, the MTRCB’s role in protecting young viewers from indecent content has decreased.

He encouraged the MTRCB to form a research arm that will study how it can expand its mandate under the law to cover various digital platforms, including Netflix.

Since nakikita ko sa MTRCB ‘yung heart na maging guardian ng values ng ating youth ngayon, let me encourage MTRCB to look at contemporary Filipino values that we can agree on, and [determine] if they (digital platforms) are allowed na kahit ano pwedeng ipakita,” he said.

Cayetano clarified that the aim is not to censor but to ensure that young Filipinos do not consume content that is violent, lewd, or against Filipino morals, especially in today’s “much more confusing time” in which illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases have become rampant.

“It’s not more of censorship, but more of giving the young people the right ideas and information, and then they can make their own choices later on,” he said.

He said putting in P10 million to P15 million for the proposed research “will go a long way” in achieving this objective.

Cayetano said to ensure balanced results, the research should not rely on the personal values of the MTRCB chairperson but rather on the values of Filipino communities.

“We do have to have a standard, and siguro the first standard is the Philippine Constitution, which mentions the Lord Almighty sa preamble pa lang,” he said.

He said the research can also keep the filmmakers updated as to the type of shows that the Filipino public actually wants. “Hindi totoo na kailangan parating violence at sex para kumita,” he said.


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