The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences manages the Academy Awards, which means they make the rules as far as who gets to compete for an Oscar. They were recently asked to address the issue of whether original Netflix movies could qualify for Oscar awards, but, as those productions are considered television, the Academy’s members suggested that those movies would not be eligible for Academy Awards.
The U.S. Justice Department has since intervened, suggesting that barring Netflix movies from eligibility would violate anti-trust laws. The chief of the Department of Justice, Makan Delrahim, expressed concern that the way the AMPAS rules were written implied a suppression of competition. The message, which was sent to the Academy’s CEO, Dawn Hudson, explained that any rules seeking to affect fair competition must also include a justification for doing so.
Concern was raised recently as a result of Oscar wins for the Netflix film, Roma, which claimed three Oscars. Filmmaker Steven Spielberg criticized the awards, pointing out that the film debuted on the Netflix streaming service at the same time that it was featured in theaters. He claims that type of double exposure creates an unfair advantage in competing against films that receive a strictly theatrical release.
Mr. Spielberg also argued that debuting a film in a television format defeats the purpose of creating theatrical films. He represents many filmmakers who believe that Netflix, along with other streaming services, are making television movies. As such, those works should qualify for television awards, like the Emmys, but not for theatrical film awards, like the Oscars.
Each year, the AMPAS Board of Governors meets to review the Academy’s rules. This year when they convene, they will address the issue of allowing Netflix and similar streaming services to compete. The meeting, which is set to take place on April 23, allows all branches of the Academy to submit rules for the board to review. It seems likely that this issue will be addressed as a part of this process.
The Department of Justice chief warned that passing laws that prohibit fair competition would likely violate anti-trust laws and, as such, would result in sanctions against AMPAS. He added that the new rules would have to be reviewed by the Justice Department to determine their legality. It remains to be seen how AMPAS will respond, following the April 23 meeting.