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Friday, February 23, 2024

Senators reviewing MTRCB mandate

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THE Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media tackled in a hybrid hearing on Thursday bills to revisit the mandate of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), given fast-changing trends in media and entertainment and concern that content unfit for minors is being freely streamed on some platforms.

The panel chairman, Sen. Robin Padilla, acknowledging his roots as a “product of the entertainment industry,” said the panel hearing aims to expound on “our goal today to make sure that our guidance is strong and effective for the viewers, especially our youth, from shows and audio-visual media in any mode, form and platform.”

Speaking in Filipino, the presiding chairman, assured: “I repeat, we don’t want censorship. We are not against the free and creative arts; rather, we are on the side of intelligent monitoring against unacceptable media such as content that is immoral, obscene, or promotes beliefs against the law and morality of society and of course, the feature that concerns your servant—damage to the reputation and dignity of our Motherland Philippines,” he added.

Padilla said the panel would try to expound on: first, the expansion of MTRCB’s powers; second, the MTRCB’s mandate to approve, disapprove and delete objectionable parts of the show; third, integration of video and online games and outdoor media in the scope of MTRCB; and fourth, the inclusion of online streaming platforms and on-demand streaming services in the jurisdiction of the MTRCB.”

“Our goal today is to make sure that our guidance is strong and effective for the viewers, especially our youth, from shows and audio-visual media in any mode, form and platform,” Padilla said in Filipino.

The MTRCB was created by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1986, and tasked to oversee not just television, cinema and optical media.

Since then, the Board functioned as regulatory body, covering not just television, film and optical media for public viewing.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian noted, however, that the implementing law covering public viewing for Filipinos, as provided in the implementing decree, did not even mention the word “internet” and “online” in the existing decree.

The lawmaker lamented, partly speaking in Filipino, that MTRCB has been “left behind” in the task of “filtering a proliferation of audio-visual media and content on new platforms and modes of viewing.”

Gatchalian said remedial legislation expanding the regulatory powers of MTRCB is needed to cover “video and online games given the growing 43 million Filipino gamers.”

For her part MTRCB Chairperson Lala Sotto-Antonio thanked Senators Francis Tolentino, Grace Poe and Gatchalian for filing separate bills that will amend and expand the mandate of the Board.

“We welcome the move to amend the charter of the MTRCB as it will allow the agency to adequately adapt to changes in technology and the ever-evolving needs of the viewing public and our other stakeholders,” Sotto-Antonio said in her opening statement at the hearing.

At the same time, the MTRCB chairperson  added: “With regard to video and online gaming, the MTRCB believes in the necessity to regulate video and online games to protect the safety and well-being of the youth.”

Senator Poe, meanwhile, said streaming platforms should implement more stringent self-regulation and be monitored to ensure that their content are age-appropriate, especially for young viewers. She also suggested requiring streaming services to secure legislative franchises before they are allowed to operate in the country like cable and broadcast companies.

Poe, herself a former MTRCB chief, said she supports measures that would update and expand the powers of the MTRCB and help the local entertainment industry.

“We want to make sure that MTRCB keeps up with the constantly-changing media industry,” Poe said. 

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