Drilon hits ‘very impractical’ plan of MTRCB to regulate content of Netflix, others
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon strongly thumbed down a proposal by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) to regulate content on streaming platforms like Netflix as he cautioned the agency against becoming a “tool of censorship.”
Drilon said the regulation of video streaming content would be “very impractical” and that the MTRCB should allow these platforms to self-regulate.
“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?” he said in a statement on Friday.
“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.
According to the senator, self-regulating mechanisms of video streaming outfits should be enough.
‘Martial law creation’
Drilon also said that it was “unfortunate” that the MTRCB has yet to “evolve and rise above its martial law origins inclined towards censorship and has not been a driver of self-regulation in the industry.”
The MTRCB was created through Presidential Decree No. 1986 issued in 1985 by then President Ferdinand Marcos.
It is mandated to regulate and classify motion pictures, TV programs, and publicity materials, among others.
“The MTRCB is a martial law creation. It has been institutionalized as a tool for censorship,” Drilon went on.
“It should focus its efforts on being an instrument to improve the quality of content being produced, instead of being a tool for censorship,” he added.
The senator, a former justice secretary, further noted that it is prohibited under the Constitution to censor content as it is tantamount to prior restraint and infringes on the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression.
The senator recalled that the MTRCB was established at a time when the movie and television industry was on the brink of economic collapse and when “unbridled sex and violence in movies were the norm.”
“I’d like to believe that the industry today has achieved the maturity that [Presidential Decree) 1986 sought to see. They can ably self-regulate their content,” he added.
Drilon said the Marcos decree creating MTRCB stated that “through the participation of industry leaders, the industry can eventually self-regulate after it has demonstrated its maturity, self-reliance, and dependability.”
He added that MTRCB was tasked to regulate those who were unable to regulate their content at the time.
The goal has always been self-regulation by the industry, according to the senator.
He explained that the American movie and technology giant 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, Drilon said, adding that parents can see what content their children can view upon subscription to Netflix.
It has mechanisms that limit children’s access, he even 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 said.
He additionally pointed out that Netflix has self-regulation mechanisms that are not present in and are “perhaps more effective than the regulation or classification in television.”
‘Internet is just a medium’
It was during a Senate committee hearing on Thursday when MTRCB’s legal affairs division chief Atty. Jonathan Presquito called on senators to craft a policy that would allow and guide the agency in regulating materials on video-on-demand platforms, saying that their content is “unrated.”
Presquito also argued that any motion picture content, regardless of the platform it is being offered on, falls under the MTRCB’s jurisdiction.
“Internet is just a medium. Hindi por que sa internet pinalabas ang isang pelikula ay therefore wala na siya sa jursidiction ng MTRCB,” he added.
“We have to ensure that those materials being shown on those platforms are compliant with the MTRCB law,” he likewise said.
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