Banning Netflix from Oscars may be against the law

NEW YORK • It is a showdown.

Netflix may already have Oscars under its belt, but its acceptance by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hangs in the balance.

The latter is set to re-examine whether the streaming giant will remain eligible for such awards, amid a warning from the United States Justice Department over possible violation of 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. It did not reveal its response to the 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.

But for the 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 will meet on April 23 for an annual meeting on the rules of the Oscars.

US anti-trust laws exist to promote fair competition. Recently, the authorities blocked a takeover of media giant Time Warner by telecommunications group AT&T on the grounds that it would cut out competition and raise prices for customers.

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