• Why Do We Keep Giving Netflix a Free Pass?

    by  • October 17, 2018 • Other • 9 Comments


    Whether you are talking to friends and family, or reading news stories about the media giant, it seems no one has anything critical to say about Netflix. But is that a healthy thing? In a recent story for the Huffington Post, writer Todd Van Luling suggests it’s not.

    Any damning criticism fails to stick. And when a controversy does happen, it’s not like we’re all just going to quit Netflix. The service has become a bona fide daily habit across the globe. Collectively, subscribers reportedly stream around 140 million hours of video a day. We’re not leaving anytime soon. All we can do is hope to reshape it into something that serves us better.

    Luling then goes on to discuss Netflix CEO Reid Hastings’ troubling response to a question posed by the PTC during the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting earlier this year. When asked why the company proceeded with a second season of 13 Reasons Why, in light of serious concerns about suicide contagion, Hastings said, “13 Reasons Why has been enormously popular and successful. It is controversial. But nobody has to watch it.”

    That quote sums of what appears to be the company’s ethos and the root of my growing problem. Regardless of whether a choice is problematic, as long as it’s popular ― as long as it makes the company more money ― then Netflix will go through with it.

    The PTC has been sounding the alarm on Netflix since the debut of 13 Reasons Why; and those concerns have only been compounded by the addition of programs like Insatiable, Big Mouth, and Desire to the line-up.

     (see related post: Netflix and Facebook Partner to Take Sexualization of Children to a New Low)

    More troubling still are the challenges Netflix presents for parents. There are effectively no content restrictions (no advertisers they need to worry about offending and they are not governed by existing indecency laws), so pretty much anything goes: from graphic sex and nudity, to every form of profanity you can imagine, to extreme violence and gore. The only thing standing in the way of children and this content is a four-digit pin (assuming parents even know to turn on the parental controls). And because so many children have smart phones or tablets, much of this content can be streamed over mobile devices outside of the purview of parents.

    Like Facebook, Luling suggests, Netflix uses algorithms to push problematic content out to an unprecedentedly large audience; which most viewers just accept without even thinking about it, and even if some viewers are troubled by Netflix’s programming choices, there’s enough of the content they love there to keep them from abandoning the platform completely.

    Netflix pushes content based on whether the company’s algorithm thinks it will make us click and not necessarily whether that content will be good or bad for us. With autoplaying trailers on the homepage, we have even less of a choice in whether we consume what Netflix gives us.

    This company has immense power. With that power, Netflix has already made troubling missteps. And if that won’t make you quit your subscription, it should at least put some actual chill in your bones.

    Indeed, it should.



    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    9 Responses to Why Do We Keep Giving Netflix a Free Pass?

    1. Tara McCulley
      October 20, 2018 at 11:30 am

      Ten seconds ago, I cancelled Netflix. We are and have been completely appalled with their programming. Just sticking with it to see safe family films. We have Pureflix already. We no longer support Netflix. Is it any wonder their downward progression due to the members of their board?

    2. Donald Feldman
      October 19, 2018 at 11:27 am

      Though I do not agree with it, When the PTC wants to control content over the public airwaves, they have the law on their side. The airwaves belong to the people. I get it.

      Their next target, basic cable, is more problematic. No one is forced to subscribe to any cable company. The PTC, however, is justified in their argument that cable subscribers are forced to pay for Channels they never watch. The market place seems to be taking care of this. People are canceling their subscriptions in droves.

      The PTC latest target is Netflix. Netflix seems to be what the PTC has been fighting for. Consumers FREELY pay a monthly fee to watch whatever they want, whenever they want. Each subscriber CHOOSES to subscribe, pick the shows that interest them and watch on any platform they choose. Netflix solely relies on those subscribers for ALL of their revenue. 58 million Americans choose to pay anywhere from 9.95 to 14.95 a month to watch the service.

      The PTC mantra has been consumer choice. You can’t have much more choice than that. For the PTC to criticize and condemn Netflix is hypocritical. 58 million people are freely choosing this service. If they found it objectionable, they could cancel their subscriptions.

      I think your organization is simply looking to censor any content they deem objectionable. The PTC seems to need a media bad guy. If a portion of Netflix subscribers objected to these shows , Netflix would cancel them. Any Netflix subscriber, at any time, can cancel their subscription. Its not going to happen because the majority of these 58 million are very happy with what they see on this platform.

    3. Darryl Malcolm
      October 19, 2018 at 8:06 am

      Jonathan is absolutely right, is on the parents. Parents should never sign up or allow their children to sign up for Netflix in the first place. I agree with article in that children are aggressively marketed to based up their personal preferences and what they watch. I never got past the user and privacy agreements when I first attempted to sign up for me and my daughter. The privacy agreement states right up front that your personal information will no longer be personal and that it will provided to everyone and everybody – including themselves to push trash your and your child ‘s way. Whether Netflix parental filters are effective is a mute point. My daughter is a 22 year old Down’s gal and she is so technologically savvy, she regularly gets around my controls. I assume most kids are capable of doing so as well – if not more effectively. I once asked a friend of mine how the Nazi’s were able to take control of pre-WWII Germany and she gave me a German phrase for “food and games”. This was explained to mean if you keep the “great herd of sheep” entertained and distracted, you can get away with anything. Curt Cobane’s lyric to “Teen Spirit” is so appropriate when it comes to Netflix, “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous
      Here we are now, entertain us
      I feel stupid and contagious
      Here we are now, entertain us”

    4. Sandra Walden
      October 19, 2018 at 5:49 am

      We have Netflix and Amazon Prime because there really isn’t much on regular TV that is worth watching. We refuse to pay for cable, dish or satellite. When you do watch regular TV programming there seems to be more commercials than TV programming, it’s very annoying. So we pick and chose what we watch on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Of course we don’t watch the shows you are speaking of in your email. It really is all about making good choices. I think the biggest problem is the lack of morals and right and wrong in the world. If more people had better morals and had God in their life they wouldn’t watch most of the trash on TV or available through Netflix or any other entertainment provider.

    5. Jonathan
      October 17, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Your right there are no content restrictions and that’s the way it should and will always be. A filmmaker/writer shouldn’t have to restrict themselves because some group doesn’t like the content in said show/movie.

      See this group does not offer any ways to fix a “problem” you just state a issue and expect a company like netlfix to fall in line because you’re parents. The truth is Netflix has plenty of way to block certain content and yes that four digit pin is effective. Not only can you block certain ratings but you can block individual titles as well. Anyone who actually uses Netlfix on a daily basis knows this.

      So why isn’t this good enough for you? Why can’t you just accept the fact there are people who enjoy watching a show like Daredevil, The Punisher Big Mouth, Bojack, etc. Why should Netflix cater to a small minority when there’s more people out there who want this content?

      Every show you go after is TV-MA or R rated. Meaning they are for adults. If someone under the age of 17 is watching them then that’s on the parent. Netflix can’t control what a parent let’s their kids watch. Yes a parents can’t monitor their kids 24/7 but that’s why there are parental controls. If a kid goes to a friend’s house and watches a show they aren’t supposed to then that’s on the kid. Netflix can’t and shouldn’t be blamed for kids disobeying their parents.

        October 19, 2018 at 5:30 am

        It true all that you say , but we all have a moral responsiblity . what you do matters. How you do it matters. The impact of your decisions changes lives for good or evil. The company is held accountable by God. Yes that is true. Who knows that may be your child or nephew or family member that watches your so called show that caused them to chose the wrong action and do harm to themselves or others. It does appear that Jonathon thinks he is not held accountable . Everyone else is . To bad that the child watches that is on him. No Jonathon that is on you.

        • Jonathan
          October 22, 2018 at 5:17 pm

          A moral responsibility? Okay let’s just God does exist, I’d like think he’s more concerned with murder, poverty, new borns dying right after birth etc than some company who distributes movies and TV shows.

          Second I’m 23 I don’t have kids nor do I have any nephews so that side of your argument is defeated already. Let’s just say I did have kids. My kids will be smart enough to understand fiction from reality and if I chose to let my kid watch something like Daredevil at the age or 8, it’s because I made the decision after seeing it and knowing my kid could handle it; and because I know there’s nothing to worry about letting him/her watching it.

          This group like to think they have the moral high ground but into truth they’re not better than the company the attack. This group bought stock for Netflix. Why did they do it? Well they claim to sit on shareholders meetings but I have zero doubts that down the line they will cash in those stocks and make a ton money out of it.

          Like I’ve said many many times Commonsense Media is actually out there to inform parents. They do it without attacking filmmakers and calling for censorship.

      • Andy K.
        October 19, 2018 at 10:14 am

        I totally agree 100% with Jonathan :) .

      • Larry Friedman
        October 19, 2018 at 11:50 am

        For years, The PTC has attempted to regulate content they deem objectionable. First on over the air Channels. As much as I disagree with the concept, they have a legal right to do so. The air waves belong to the people.

        Next the PTC targeted basic cable. Far more problematic. Though most of us dislike paying for Channels we never watch. The market place seems to be solving this problem. People are canceling cable subscriptions in droves. In five years, the current cable model will be gone.

        The latest target is Netflix. The PTC has reached the height of hypocrisy by going after this company . 58 million Americans FREELY pay around 15.00 a month to watch what they want, when they want. These 58 million can cancel at anytime. If they don’t choose a particular program, it’s canceled, Simple as that. Netflix is totally subscriber based so subscribers choose whether a show stays or goes.

        It seems the PTC MUST have a media bad guy. It’s not up to any organization or individual to tell someone else what to view. Netflix and similar subscriber based services are the future of television. The PTC got what it wanted with Netflix, So, PTC be careful what you wish for.

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