Suppressing competition? Academy warned against excluding Netflix from Oscars

NEW YORK (AFP) – It may already have Oscars under its belt but Netflix’s acceptance by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hangs in the balance.

The prestigious body is set to reexamine whether the streaming giant will remain eligible for such awards, amid a warning from the US Justice Department that the Academy could violate anti-trust laws.

“We’ve received a letter from the Department of Justice and have responded accordingly,” the Academy said, confirming reports in Variety magazine.

The Academy did not reveal its response to the Justice Department’s letter.

Film director Steven Spielberg has suggested that Netflix films should not be eligible for Oscars, but instead for Emmy Awards handed to the stars and creators of television shows.

“Once you commit to a television format, you’re a TV movie,” said Spielberg, who is set to work with new streaming platform Apple TV+.

But for US authorities, “such conduct may raise anti-trust concerns”.

In its letter to the Academy, the Justice Department expressed concerns that new restrictions could “suppress competition”.

The Academy, for its part, simply says it will meet on April 23 for an annual meeting on the rules of the Oscars.

US anti-trust laws exist to regulate businesses to promote fair competition and protect consumers.

Recently, authorities blocked the takeover of media giant Time Warner by telecoms group AT&T, on the grounds that it would cut out competition and raise prices for customers.

Fuelled by Netflix’s haul at this year’s Academy Awards, including three prizes for Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, underlying all this is a battle between the world of old cinema and the new world of streaming services for supremacy.

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