In an article published on Saturday, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos defended his decision to protect the company’s content from woke employees who would seek to censor it, saying that it was “very important” for American culture.
The change in Netflix’s company culture was in large part due to the backlash the streaming service faced last year over its Dave Chappelle special, “The Closer,” which some employees claimed was transphobic.
When asked how he felt about being touted in conservative media after defending freedom of speech, Sarandos said, “It used to be a very liberal issue, so it’s an interesting time that we live in.”
Sarandos added, “I always said if we censor in the U.S., how are we going to defend our content in the Middle East?”
He told The Times that he encourages comedians to cross “the line every once in a while” to figure out where large swaths of the American public stand on certain issues.
“I think it’s very important to the American culture generally to have free expression,” Sarandos said. “We’re programming for a lot of diverse people who have different opinions and different tastes and different styles, and yet we’re not making everything for everybody. We want something for everybody but everything’s not going to be for everybody.”
Sarandos said that it “wasn’t hard” to stand up for Chappelle as far-left activists tried to cancel the comedian.
“And rarely do you get the opportunity to put your principles to the test,” Sarandos said. “It was an opportunity to take somebody, like in Dave’s case, who is, by all measure, the comedian of our generation, the most popular comedian on Netflix for sure. Nobody would say that what he does isn’t thoughtful or smart. You just don’t agree with him.”
Netflix’s updated culture memo features a new section called “Artistic Expression” that states that it will not “censor specific artists or voices” even if employees consider the content “harmful.”
“If you’d find it hard to support our content breadth, Netflix may not be the best place for you,” the memo states, later adding that employees may be required to work on projects that they “perceive to be harmful” and that if they have a hard time accepting their work assignment, they might want to consider working somewhere else.
“Entertaining the world is an amazing opportunity and also a challenge because viewers have very different tastes and points of view. So we offer a wide variety of TV shows and movies, some of which can be provocative,” the new section reads, later adding, “we support the artistic expression of the creators we choose to work with” and that “we let viewers decide what’s appropriate for them, versus having Netflix censor specific artists or voices.”