Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented the idea of eliminating Netflix and other streaming services from their prestigious Oscars. As the idea gained momentum, many have questioned the legality of the proposed exclusions. According to Variety, the Justice Department stepped in to warn the Academy that a rule limiting the eligibility of streaming services from the Oscars may breach antitrust law.
The Chief of the DOJ Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, wrote directly to the Academy CEO, Dawn Hudson, raising his concerns over the possible rule change. In the letter, Delrahim warned Hudson, “In the event that the Academy — an association that includes multiple competitors in its membership — establishes certain eligibility requirements for the Oscars that eliminate competition without procompetitive justification, such conduct may raise antitrust concerns.”
The debate to eliminate streaming services from the Oscars has accelerated since Academy member, Steven Spielberg, expressed his intention to push for their exclusion last year. Spielberg argues that many of the streaming services in question function as television networks and any cinematic content that is released on their platform is in “a television format” or “a TV movie”. While the acclaimed director does embrace some aspects of the booming digital medium, he often patronizes the format stating, “if it’s a good show—deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar.”
With undefined parameters in the new digital medium, it may come down to the courts and DOJ – organizations that possess very little expertise in the entertainment industry – to decide the future of cinema. Cinephiles disagree whether the recent backlash by prestigious organizations toward streaming services is a beam of hope for the film industry or a nostalgia-fueled scramble to regress to 20th-century cinema.