The UK government has continued to apply pressure to Netflix to carry a disclaimer on The Crown making clear the series is dramatized — even though the U.S. streaming giant has already knocked back the request.
Culture minister John Whittingdale told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that it “does no harm” for Netflix to make explicit to subscribers that The Crown, although pegged to real events, is Peter Morgan’s “speculation or imagination as to what might have happened.”
It follows culture secretary Oliver Dowden (Whittingdale’s boss) writing to Netflix last month requesting that it warn viewers that the lavish Left Bank Pictures drama is partly a work of fiction. Netflix declined the request, stating: “We have every confidence our members understand it’s a work of fiction that’s broadly based on historical events.”
Whittingdale, who confessed to only having watched some of Season 1, was asked by Labour lawmaker Kevin Brennan whether he believes that Brits are “stupid enough to think it’s a documentary.” The minister responded: “I would hope not. Most people are aware that dramatized accounts of real-life events inevitably require some speculation.”
Brennan pressed: “Do you think the secretary of state made himself look a bit of a twit by suggesting that the British people needed a health warning about The Crown?” Whittingdale disagreed, adding that Season 4 deals with events that are “a little more raw” than previous seasons and a disclaimer would be helpful.
He said: “These are events that are quite raw and controversial, and they involve people such as the existing Prince of Wales and his sons. It does no harm, particularly because those events did generate strong views and emotions on both sides. It is not unhelpful to remind people… that this is not based on any insider knowledge, but is a dramatization of somebody’s speculation or imagination as to what might have happened.”
Ultimately, the UK government has no power to compel Netflix to make a change, partly because the U.S. streamer is regulated in the Netherlands. This dilemma came up earlier in Whittingdale’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing, when he said the government would think about new regulation for foreign streamers.
“UK traditional broadcasters are subject to quite stringent requirements… and then you have the video on demand services, which are really subject to no regulation or requirements at all,” the minister said. “That is something that is quite a stark difference. Whether or not we would want to look at having some kind of basic requirements on the video on demand services is something which I think the government might well think about.”