MANILA - Lawmakers and experts have objected to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board's call to regulate Netflix and other video streaming platforms, saying it is impractical and that the regulating body does not have power to do so.
For Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, MTRCB's intent is "impractical," saying Netflix already has the capacity to regulate its own programs.
"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 said in a statement.
He suggested that MTRCB instead help video streaming sites improve the quality of the videos uploaded on their platforms.
“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 also slammed MTRCB for "not being able to evolve" outside its origins - which stemmed from a Presidential Decree implemented when Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972. The Marcos regime was marked by heavy media censorship.
“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,” ani Drilon.
For House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, the proposal is"ridiculous" and "mind boggling."
He described the proposal as "the kind of bureaucratic thinking that gives government workers a bad name."
Like Drilon, he proposed that MTRCB suggest measures that would help augment the quality produced by the Philippine entertainment and media industry.
"If they really want to be relevant at this time, sana ang iniisip is kung paano makakatulong sa pagpapa-improve ng industriya dahil napag-iwanan na tayo ng ating mga Asian neighbors (They should be thinking of ways to help improve the entertainment industry because we are falling behind our Asian neighbors). Despite the fact na napaka-daming talented na (there are many very talented) Pilipino actors, directors, writers, and creative and production professionals," he said in a post on his Facebook page.
For Enrique Dela Cruz Jr., a media law professor from the University of Santo Tomas, the agency has no power to regulate the Internet or so-called "over-the-top" streaming services such as Netflix.
MTRCB's scope, he said, is only limited to monitoring content being released in movie houses and in television. And even if lawmakers craft a measure regulating streaming sites, he believes that the regulating body cannot have control over what is being put out on the Internet.
"Limitado kasi ang interpretasyon ng batas doon sa legislative intent. Ano bang intensyon ng Kongreso n'ung ginawa nila ang batas? Eh itong sa MTRCB, panahon pa ito ni Presidente Marcos, PD pa ito, Presidential Decree. So paano magiging intensyon na i-regulate internet 'nung ginawa ang batas na nagbibigay kapangyarihan sa MTRCB, wala pang internet?" ani Dela Cruz.
(The interpretation of the law is limited to the legislative intent. What was Congress' intention when they crafted the law? MTRCB was crafted during President Ferdinand Marcos' regime as a Presidential Decree. So what will be the intention of the measure if the office was crafted at a time where there was no Internet?)
In a Senate committee hearing Thursday, the media regulating body said they wished to regulate content being streamed on Netflix and other video streaming providers.
"Stream services like Netflix are video on demand platforms. We have to regulate those platforms. We have to ensure that those materials being shown on those platforms are compliant with MTRCB laws," MTRCB Legal Affairs Division chief Jonathan Presquito explained.
But for lawyer Marichu Lambino of University of Philippines College of Mass Communication, only courts have jurisdiction over applications, including video streaming apps.
“Wala pong jurisdiction ang MTRCB sa mga video streaming apps pagka't ang computer programs ay property at ang may jurisdiction dito ay mga courts,” Lambino said.
(MTRCB has no jurisdiction over video streaming programs because computer programs are considered as "property" and courts have jurisdiction over them.)
Some subscribers have also objected to the measure.
Kevin Garcia, a recruitment specialist, said subscribers are expecting to maximize the subscription fees of video streaming apps.
"We also pay for the subscription so why not get the full benefit of it? So nagkaroon na nga ng shutdown ang ABS-CBN, then magkakaroon pa ng restrictions with streaming devices so how could we stay at home nang maayos (ABS-CBN was shut down so how could we stay at home properly?)” Garcia said.
BPO director Edsel Schields also said the motion to regulate streaming apps is obsolete because sites such as Netflix already have self-regulation methods.
"Mayroong sariling maturity ratings o pamantayan na sinusunod ang karamihan sa ganitong platforms na nagde-determine sa kung ano ang dapat panoorin ng mga bata,” ani Schields.
(They have their standards to follow in most of these platforms and these determine what kids should and should not watch.)
— May ulat ni Zhander Cayabyab, ABS-CBN News