MTRCB seeks only ‘post-monitoring’, says head, as plan to regulate Netflix meets stiff opposition

Published September 4, 2020, 5:17 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe on Friday said she opposes the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board’s (MTRCB) proposal to regulate Netflix and other online streaming services.

MTRCB chairperson Rachel Arenas clarified that they do not seek to curtail the viewers’ freedom in availing of the services of the online streaming sites.  Given its limited resources, she said the Board would just do “post-monitoring” of Netflix and similar online products.

“But alam naman natin na napakahirap i-review ng materials na ‘yan (we know that it would be difficult to review those materials) so we really encourage self-regulation but we will do post-monitoring…that you are complying with our guidelines,” Arenas clarified.

Poe, who formerly chaired the MTRCB, said the agency’s “main role is to classify and in its mandate, at some point, it should give way to self-regulation.”

She also noted that the MTRCB does not have enough manpower and even resources to review and evaluate every single program being distributed by the video streaming sites.

“I think it’s counter-productive and ridiculous to suggest regulating Netflix and other streaming services. I am personally against it,” she said.

Netizens as well as lawmakers criticized the MTRCB for pushing for the regulation of online streaming services during a hearing of the Senate committee on trade, commerce and enterpreneurship on Thursday.  The hearing discussed a bill seeking to protect consumers and merchants amid the increased used of internet to distribute goods and services.

MTRCB legal affairs division chief Jonathan Presquito appealed to senators to include a provision that will allow the MTRCB to exercise authority over the contents of Netflix, Amazon Prime, I-flix, and similar streaming applications.

“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.

Only ‘post-monitoring’

“We do not — it’s not to curtail our freedom but it’s really to empower our viewers, especially now, karamihan ng mga tao (that most people) are working from home, they’re doing their school online, so it’s actually for them to — to empower them actually,” Arenas said in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.

She maintained the position that the MTRCB has the authority over all motion pictures “on whatever medium, whatever material, or equipment that they are projected.”

She said she also believes that there is no need for a separate law to authorize the MTRCB to do this, saying the presidential decree that created the board already covered this.

“I don’t want to complicate so much what we don’t need to change,” said Arenas, who was also a former member of the House of Representatives.

The MRTCB chief, on the other hand, acknowledged the constraints of their proposal.

She also said that like their current practice, they will also rely on the viewers to report issues about the contents of the videos being streamed online for review and possible sanctions.

Arenas said the online video providers have previously agreed with their proposal and “they are willing to cooperate and collaborate with us.”

The MTCRB has finished its draft guidelines but is still consulting stakeholders.

“Sabi nila (They say) we are going to curtail the freeedom. No, we’ re not. Hindi mawawala yong korean telenovelas ninyo (Your Korean telenovelas will stay),” Arenas assured the public.