A national legislator has berated the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for tinkering with “regulatory overstretch” with its desire to regulate streaming sites like Netflix and iFlix, among others, to ensure that movies and other contents they carry are compliant with the MTRCB law.
Deputy Speaker for Finance and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said Saturday such an “imbecilic” mindset among regulators only gave legislators reason to propose a huge budget cut for the agency under the 2021 national budget, if not a total zero budget for its operations.
“MTRCB’s plan to regulate online video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, iflix, HOOQ and Apple TV is a farcical take on censorship that is incongruous with the new world order,” Villafuerte said.
“These regulators should stop wasting taxpayers’ money tinkering with this imbecilic idea, lest they give us legislators enough reason to drastically slash their agency’s allocation, if not give it a zero budget, in 2021 and realign the would-be savings to the government’s Covid-19 response.”
Villafuerte said the idea for the MTRCB to censor online video content was a futile and preposterous exercise—if not waste of government resources—considering that there were more offensive, prurient or obscene materials that anybody with a wifi connection could get hold of on other social media platforms like Facebook, You Tube , or on porn sites free from official regulation.
Villafuerte noted one legal opinion held that the MTRCB, given its mandate under Presidential Decree 1986 issued in 1985, had no jurisdiction over digital video content being offered to online consumers.
In the first place, this law that created the MTRCB was issued by then President Ferdinand Marcos decades before the global explosion of video-on-demand online services, he said.
And even if the MTRCB, granting for the sake of argument, can prove that it has the legal authority to regulate such online content, Villafuerte doubted whether this Board had both the resources and manpower to do such a seemingly herculean task 24/7.
At a recent hearing of the Senate trade committee, MTRCB officials called on senators to grant the Board the authority to regulate online streaming services.
MTRCB chairperson Rachel Arenas was quoted by a media report as saying that such regulatory power would ensure that all online video platforms operating in the country were made to comply with Filipino contemporary values.
MTRCB legal affairs division chief Jonathan Presquito, meanwhile, was quoted as saying that these video-on-demand platforms needed to be regulated to make sure the materials they were showing were compliant with the MTRCB law.
Earlier on, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano slammed the MTRCB for its plan to regulate video content in streaming platforms like Netflix.
“This is the kind of bureaucratic thinking that gives government workers a bad name,” Cayetano said in a statement posted on his Facebook account.
“The people are facing so many problems and yet this is what the MTRCB wants to prioritize,” said Cayetano.
He said he was puzzled why the issue suddenly cropped up but added that since the hearings for the 2021 National Budget were already under way, “Congress will give them (MTRCB) a chance to explain how they came up with “this ridiculous idea.”
Speaking during the Senate trade committee hearing on the proposed Internet Transactions Act, MTRCB’s legal affairs division chief Jonathan Presquito cited the need to regulate streaming service platforms, adding these movies are unrated.
“There is a necessity for us to proceed with the regulation, especially during the lockdown,” Presquito said, stressing that most people subscribe to movie streaming services like Netflix, iFlix to keep their sanity intact.
But Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, author of the bill, said the measure did not cover the regulation of video content being offered to online consumers.
“What our proposal intends to do is limited to the buying and selling of video on demand insofar as the content is concerned, whether that is Rated R or Rated 18+, that’s another law (the measure for content review will involve another law),” Gatchalian said.
He said that was not “part of this proposed law because that’s a whole new different dimension altogether,” he added.