07 February 2022

Ofcom chief: There would be ‘real value’ in regulating Netflix

07 February 2022

The head of Ofcom has said there would be “real value” in the media watchdog regulating Netflix following criticism towards Jimmy Carr after he made a joke about the Holocaust during his special on the streaming service.

The comedian, known for his stand-up and roles on shows such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats, issued a “trigger warning” to the audience at the beginning of his one-hour Netflix special, admitting his performance contained “terrible things”.

In a widely shared clip from the show, Carr joked about the horror of the Holocaust and “six million Jewish lives being lost” before in the punchline making a disparaging remark about the deaths of thousands of Gypsies at the hands of the Nazis.

Jimmy Carr (Hannah McKay/PA) (PA Wire)

Speaking to Channel 4 News about the controversy and whether the watchdog should regulate Netflix, the chief executive of Ofcom Dame Melanie Dawes said: “I can certainly see that there’ll be real value in that. Yes. And so we would welcome any chance to work on that.”

She added: “I can really understand why a lot of people found that very offensive and as you say, we don’t regulate Netflix at the moment, they’re underneath the Dutch regulator.

“And I think that is a concern because it means that for viewers, it’s really confusing that they’ve got different standards applied, for example, to Channel 4 News than they have to YouTube and other services, including Netflix, that come streamed on to our TVs.”

Downing Street on Monday called Carr’s comments “deeply disturbing”, but said it was a matter for Netflix whether the comedian’s show should remain on its streaming service.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries previously suggested new laws via the Media Bill could hold to account streaming sites for airing jokes such as those made by Carr.

Dorries also warned over the weekend that she was putting social media giants such as Facebook on notice with her Online Safety Bill.

She warned that the chief executive of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, could end up in jail if the social media platform does not comply with new online safety laws.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Responding to these comments, Dame Melanie said: “Fear isn’t always what really makes a difference.

“I’d like to talk to Mark Zuckerberg, I haven’t met him. It’d be good to hear from him about what he thinks about these issues.

“But you know, we’ll have to see what sort of penalties the Government introduces in the Bill.

“I want to make them accountable, really for the first time, and to increase transparency across the industry. So that the public have got a much better sense of what’s going on and how things are getting better.”

The watchdog chief also reflected on how it was important to “factor in freedom of speech” while addressing the backlash towards Joe Rogan’s podcast on Spotify.

Rogan’s podcast has prompted many artists to pull their music catalogues from the streaming giant due to his anti-coronavirus vaccine comments and racial slurs, but Spotify has said it will not part ways with Rogan.

Dame Melanie said: “We’re not going to be saying to any of the platforms, this is exactly the way to do it.

“What we’re going to be saying is, ‘You need to be clear what the rules are on your service, and you need to abide by those rules, and we will hold you to account for that’.”

The full interview will air on Channel 4 News at 7pm on February 7.

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