PTC Asks Netflix to Justify Why “13 Reasons Why” Remains on Platform When Research Shows Increase in Child Suicides

Written by PTC | Published May 22, 2019

LOS ANGELES (May 22, 2019) – In a letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and to each member of the Netflix Board of Directors, the Parents Television Council asked the company to justify why it continues to keep “13 Reasons Why” on its platform when that show has been linked through research to an increase in suicides among children.

PTC President Tim Winter’s letter dated May 16, 2019, is as follows:

Dear Mr. Hastings,

At the Netflix annual shareholder meeting approximately one year ago, you responded to a question put forth by the Parents Television Council about the renewal of 13 Reasons Whyfor a second season. We asked how you could justify keeping a show on the air that was linked to a 26% increase in Google searches on how to commit suicide. You arrogantly dismissed our concern, saying that the program is “enormously popular and successful…but nobody has to watch it.”

Now the National Institutes of Health has linked the release of 13 Reasons Why with a 30% increase in suicides among children ages 10-17, ostensibly confirming our worst fears from a year ago. The NIH findings support research from the University of Michigan last November suggesting that at-risk children believed 13 Reasons Whyincreased their suicide risk.

How many children must die before you decide that this “popular” program is no longer “successful?” And how can a publicly-traded corporation, and its officers and board of directors, continue to stand behind the distribution of a product that is linked to children committing suicide?

Your company’s own research, led by scholars at Northwestern University, proved that the program can have a positive impact on its viewers. The results of recent research conducted by the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania also found a positive impact from 13 Reasons Why; but that research addressed the impact to adults, not to children. There can be no reasonable conclusion that 13 Reasons Why has zero impact. Do you simply ignore the research that demonstrates a negative impact? How much harm are you willing to inflict along the way?

Any product intentionally placed into the stream of commerce that is linked to children hurting or killing themselves should be voluntarily removed until it can be proven to be safe. Instead, your company keeps that product in the stream of commerce, only adding video warnings. And while we applaud a heightened awareness and concern for sexual assault and suicide, Netflix added those video warnings to the program not because the program is safe for children, but precisely because it is dangerous.

We are blessed as Americans to have a constitutionally-protected right to free speech; but just because we have a right to do something doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right thing to do. The right thing for you to do is to remove 13 Reasons Why from your distribution platform unless and until it can be proven not to be harmful to children. And the right thing for you to do is to implement a pricing structure that allows Netflix subscribers to opt-out of receiving and paying for sexually explicit, graphically violent, and harshly profane programming.

Netflix recently removed controversial footage from Bird Box, demonstrating that the company is willing to make changes to program content when it wants to do so. You should want to do so here. I sincerely but fervently call on you to take immediate steps to protect children from a product that your company has placed into the stream of commerce and which is linked to children taking their own lives. If you won’t do it, then I hereby call on the Netflix Board of Directors – each of whom is copied on this letter – to demand it.

Please, Mr. Hastings, do the right thing.


Timothy F. Winter, President

cc: Richard Barton

Rodolphe Belmer

Mathias Döpfner

Tim Haley

Jay Hoag

Leslie Kilgore

Ann Mather

Ambassador Susan Rice

Brad Smith

Anne Sweeney

Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer

The PTC is urging concerned citizens to sign a petition urging Netflix to cease distribution of 13 Reasons Why.

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