Netflix May Not Be Shut Out Of Academy Award Consideration, Says Federal Government

Steven Spielberg wants the streaming giant to only be eligible for Emmy Awards, not Oscars; the Justice Department says 'Not so fast.'

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Steven Spielberg wants the streaming giant to only be eligible for Emmy Awards, not Oscars; the Justice Department says 'Not so fast.'

Banning Netflix from Academy Awards consideration, like director Steven Spielberg wants to do, may be a violation of federal law, CNBC reports.

In a letter to the streaming giant from the Department of Justice, the agency warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that any attempt to exclude Netflix movies from Oscar consideration could be seen as a violation of federal anti-trust rules.

“If the Academy adopts a new rule to exclude certain types of films, such as films distributed via online streaming services, from eligibility for the Oscars, and that exclusion tends to diminish the excluded films’ sales, that rule could therefore violate Section 1.”

Without getting too deep into the legalities, what the Justice Department is essentially referring to is bylaws intended to prohibit monopolies and encourage competition. If the Academy were to shut out Netflix, and other streaming services, from its consideration, it could be seen as stifling competition. And the Justice Department warns that that’s not acceptable, says Variety.

Netflix has produced original films that have been nominated for Academy Awards before, but this year’s awards marked the first time that a Netflix original movie was nominated for any of the five major awards. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, a semi-autobiographical film about his childhood in Mexico City, was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and a handful of other awards. It won Best Director, among others, but not Best Picture.

The streaming giant got around the Academy’s consideration rules by screening the film in a handful of Los Angeles theaters a handful of times. Steven Spielberg, however, thought that was akin to cheating. As reported by The Inquisitr, he argued that Netflix movies shouldn’t be considered for Academy Awards because Netflix, by its very existence as a streaming service, denies viewers the opportunity to see the films in a theater.

Spielberg’s suggestion is not just idle talk — as a powerful member of the Academy’s rules committee, he has the clout to get any rule changes considered, if not pushed through. And indeed, the Academy’s rules committee is planning to meet this month to vote on proposed rule changes.

A Netflix spokesperson said that they weren’t even aware of the Justice Department’s letter to the Academy until Variety reported on it. The Academy, for its part, acknowledged having received the letter but declined to comment further.

The Academy’s rules committee will convene on April 23. Whether or not Spielberg’s proposed rules change to eliminate Netflix from Oscars consideration will be approved, or will be voted on at all, remains unclear.