Media law expert: MTRCB has no legal authority in regulating online video streaming sites

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) – The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) has no legal authority to regulate online video streaming sites such as Netflix, a media law expert said.

Lawyer Enrique dela Cruz emphasized that based on Presidential Decree No. 1986 signed by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1985, the MTRCB is only mandated to regulate motion pictures and television programs among others.

“When its charter is granted by President Marcos, Internet streaming services have not yet come to fruition. So it cannot be interpreted to be included in its mandate when at the time of the power was granted, such services were not even available at that time,” the lawyer explained to CNN Philippines’ Rico Hizon on Friday.

Dela Cruz debunked the interpretation of MTRCB legal affairs chief Jonathan Presquito that a motion picture distributed electronically is under the jurisdiction of the agency. Presquito told senators on Thursday that a motion picture in the law is defined as a series of pictures projected in a screen or any medium, may it have color or not, may it be silent or not.

RELATED: MTRCB wants to regulate contents of Netflix, other online streaming platforms

The media lawyer stressed Presquito has a misconception on the concept of online streaming.

“You cannot just extract movies and television shows from the Internet and regulate it separately from the medium. It’s just like saying that online newspapers must be covered by print media regulations?” said Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz also said the MTRCB cannot filter the movies and television shows in video streaming services such as Netflix because its source is not in the Philippines.

Dela Cruz also pointed out it is illegal to tax video streaming services because of its “self-viewing” nature, where people can view the shows and movies at their homes.

“It is not feasible for the MTRCB to monitor how many people are viewing a particular show at any given time,” he said.

If the MTRCB thinks online video streaming sites are airing movies or shows that are not suited for the audience, the media lawyer said the agency has two options: limiting its access by targeting the Internet service providers and denying its access if they are violating Philippine laws.

The media law expert added MTRCB does not have a power to censor the content of shows and movies in these online streaming services because they are not legally mandated to filter online sources. But Dela Cruz said the government can impose a subsequent punishment to those who caused its publication.

“It’s not content regulation, but prosecution. That’s with the DOJ (Department of Justice) and not with the MTRCB,” Dela Cruz clarified.

Some lawmakers and netizens reacted negatively in MTRCB’s proposal to regulate contents of online streaming platforms. Earlier today, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said the proposal is ill-timed considering the country is in the midst of a pandemic.