Can the MTRCB Really Censor Netflix? – Manila Bulletin

Netflix MTRCB Censorship

Following a complaint by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) regarding scenes showing a map of China’s “nine-dash line” in two episodes of Pine Gap (an Australian online show / series airing on Netflix), the debate over whether the Philippine censorship council can impose its power on online streaming platforms has resurfaced.

Short answer: No! The MTRCB has no power over online streaming platforms like Netflix, Vivamax, iFlix, etc. It is not part of the MTRCB Charter to oversee content disseminated online.

Acting as a quasi-judicial government agency reporting to the office of the President, the MTRCB is responsible for the review and classification of television programs, films and advertising material.

Just a background, it was in 1985 when former President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 1986 creating the MTRCB. According to article 3 of this law, the powers and functions of the MTRCB were defined as (article 3.b.):

“To screen, review and review all films as defined herein, television programs, including advertising media such as advertisements, trailers and still images, whether such films and advertising media are intended for theatrical or non-theatrical distribution, television broadcast or viewing, imported or produced in the Philippines, and in the latter case, whether intended for local viewing or export; “

The law is very clear, since the commercial internet (or the web) did not yet exist in the Philippines when PD 1986 was enacted, the MTRCB has no legal authority over online platforms. There is a need for a (new) law to be passed for the MTRCB to govern what Netflix and other streaming platforms can offer Filipino viewers.

Of course, that’s unless the government (or the president) can find an existing law and cover this legislature to change the duties and functions of the MTRCB. But I highly doubt that will happen anytime soon, especially when many of our lawmakers are already busy preparing their respective election campaigns.

In other words, can the MTRCB filter, review and review all content posted online? With Netflix alone, imagine how many hours of work it will take them to “reclassify” all the shows and movies the platform already has. And we’re not even talking about video content from other SVOD (Subscription Video-On-Demand) and YouTube players.

But what really happened? If the MTRCB has no legal authority over Netflix, why did the online streaming platform remove the episodes containing the “offensive” content after receiving the complaint? My take on this is that Netflix (based in California, US) just doesn’t want to create enemies, especially government entities from countries where they have large audiences.

This is not the first time that Netflix has given in to the demands of a government just to appease them. Personally, I think the DFA and MTRCB have simply overreacted by asking a streaming platform to remove something that is a work of fiction.



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