Netflix has removed the second and third episodes of Pine Gap from its streaming service for audiences in the Philippines. Why? The company said simply, “removed by government demand”. There are only six episodes of the Australian spy drama, so a two-episode removal is a major change to the series for audiences. While Netflix hasn’t said much about the episodes being removed, the government of the Philippines is saying plenty. As it turns out, the government of the Southeast Asian country asked for the episodes to be removed due to a Chinese map shown in the series. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for the Philippines claimed that the map shown on the series was a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
The maps shown in the second and third episodes of Pine Gap show the South China Sea. On Chinese maps, the country has claimed the waters in the contested nine-dash line. This area is rich with resources. The Philippines contest China’s claims to this area, but they’re not alone. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also contest the validity of the “nine-dash line” that Chinese-made maps lay claim to. In fact, Netflix has removed Pine Gap entirely from their streaming service in Vietnam after the government reviewed the show, saw the maps, and came to the same conclusion as the Department of Foreign Affairs for the Phillippines.
The DFA issued a statement about their findings, saying that the episodes of Pine Gap on Netflix were “unfit for public exhibition”. In fact, they feel that the decision to show the maps with the nin-dash line was a consciously made decision on the part of the showrunners. Their statement claimed that it was “no accident as it was consciously designed and calculated to specifically convey a message that China’s nine-dash line legitimately exists”.
These words make it sound as though the Department of Foreign Affairs felt that Pine Gap was taking a side in the controversy around China’s claim to the sea. It’s unclear if the Netflix show did do this knowingly or not, especially since the streaming service isn’t addressing the situation publicly. The board handed down their ruling on the show on September 28, 2021. It’s unclear why the streaming service is only just now removing the episodes from its service.
Pine Gap is a fairly international show. The political thriller sees its characters in Australia working in a joint defense agency with American and Australian characters. The series first aired in 2018 on ABC and is now streaming on Netflix globally, except in areas where governments are taking issue.
This is far from the only controversy Netflix is currently facing. Carole Baskin became a star for the network during the pandemic on their hit show Tiger King, and is now suing the streaming service over her appearance in Tiger King 2. The company has made international headlines over its Dave Chappelle stand-up special, The Closer. They recently saw one of their international hits reach the biggest ratings they’ve ever seen. Squid Game has become a mostly positive grab for headlines, but it, too, has its own troubles. As an international giant, Netflix is likely to continue facing these kinds of problems as they navigate international waters, figuratively and literally.