Parents Television Council Urges Netflix to Protect Kids from Adult Content
In a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the Parents Television Council has asked him to protect kids from adult content that is easily accessible on the platform - as discovered by new PTC research - and "not to lose sight of the unique needs of millions of parents who rely on you to help provide a safer entertainment media environment for their families."
"With the recent announcement that Disney will be pulling its programming from Netflix to launch its own streaming video service; coupled with T-Mobile's announcement that Family Plan subscribers would be getting a free Netflix subscription, now is an opportune time for Netflix to recommit to providing families with both abundant, suitable programming choices and adequate parental controls," wrote PTC President Tim Winter.
The PTC's new report evaluating streaming video services found some surprising results about Netflix that are of concern to parents, and the PTC outlined a list of recommendations to Netflix that would improve the service for families. Here are additional excerpts from Mr. Winter's letter to Mr. Hastings:
While Netflix does offer parental controls, and while a child might not be able to stream adult-rated content when those controls are turned-on; there was nothing to prevent that child from browsing through an adult user's profile, where they might see highly-suggestive titles and cover-art, like Zack and Miri Make a Porno or Nymphomaniac. Netflix could remedy this exposure by requiring a passcode to switch from a child's profile to an adult user profile. On the mobile app, Netflix should make it possible for parents to entirely block adult profiles and titles.
Adult titles are grouped with child-targeted content, so that titles like Sausage Party appeared next to The B.F.G.; FAMILY GUY appeared next to Finding Dory; and an image of a sex toy on the cover art for GRACE AND FRANKIE was displayed just above the "Children and Family" menu options. We also found that it was difficult for parents to eliminate entirely the categories of content they didn't want displayed at all. Netflix could correct this by ensuring that menu groupings reflect not just genre, but also age-based ratings; and by making it easier for parents to remove entirely the titles they don't want appearing ON THE MENU screen, either based on genre, age-rating or specific content concerns.
The vast majority of Netflix original and exclusive programming is rated TV-MA (for Mature Audiences only); and although Netflix does offer some good children's programming, there is very little original content for broader family viewing. Only 1% of Netflix originals/exclusives are rated G, and only 8% are rated PG. Netflix could correct this by committing more development dollars to general-audience programming designed to appeal to the whole family, rather than adults-only, or pre-schoolers only.
Netflix could attract family subscribers by developing a pricing plan for families similar to one offered by Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, whereby they receive a modest subscription price discount in exchange for not receiving - and for not being asked to underwrite - the more explicit program offerings.
Netflix can and should embrace and engage with the content filtering companies that help parents block offensive material within their homes. Companies such as VidAngel and ClearPlay should be your strategic partners as gateways to family audiences across the nation and around the world.
Mr. Winter continued, "By making these changes, Netflix would become a much more family-friendly environment for the growing legions of cord-cutting parents who are turning to streaming video services for their family entertainment needs. Not only is this an important matter for your family subscribers, but we believe it to be in Netflix's strategic financial interest to do more to keep families interested in your service, and to your family market.
"Mr. Hastings, your clear commitment to educational philanthropy is exemplary and it demonstrates your care and commitment to children, ensuring they have a shot at a good future. We urge you to apply this same commitment to your corporate enterprises, given the vast scholarly research that correlates poor lifetime outcomes for children who are exposed to high levels of sex and violence in the media.
"Thank you for considering the important needs of millions of families - not just the millions who already are your paying customers, but the millions more who could (and should) be your paying customers if their concerns were adequately addressed."
To read the new PTC report on streaming video services, visit www.parentstv.org/OTT2017M.
The Parents Television Council® (www.parentstv.org®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.4 million members, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC™ also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families. Visit the new PTC Watchdog Blog at http://www.parentstv.org/blog/. Follow the PTC on Twitter: @ThePTC.