Here's What Netflix's New 'Culture Memo' Says About How the Company Has Changed
Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

Here's What Netflix's New 'Culture Memo' Says About How the Company Has Changed

Netflix promised change after its poor first-quarter earnings. One of the first targets: the Netflix Culture document.

The changes, which Variety reported on Thursday, indicate a new focus on fiscal responsibility and concern about censorship. While promises to support honest feedback and open decision-making remain, the memo’s first update in almost five years reveals that the days of lax spending are over. The newly added “artistic expression” section emphasizes Netflix’s refusal to censor its work and implores employees to support the platform’s content.


The “artistic expression” section states that the company will not “censor specific artists or voices” and specifies that employees may have to work on content “they perceive to be harmful.” The memo points to ratings, content warnings and parental controls as ways for users to determine what is appropriate content.

Censorship has been a contentious issue within Netflix. Last year, employees walked out in protest after the company stood by comedian Dave Chappelle’s special, “The Closer,” which many said was transphobic. The streaming service has since announced four more specials from the comedian, who was attacked on stage at Netflix’s first comedy festival. The show will not air on the platform, as Netflix did not tape the event.

The reaction to Chappelle’s 2021 special ripples further in the updated memo. After firing an employee who leaked how much the company paid for the special, the new “ethical expectations” section directs employees to protect company information.

The memo also reflects pressure borught by poor first-quarter earnings. Employees are now instructed to “spend our members’ money wisely,” and Variety reported that earlier passages that indicated a lack of spending limits were cut. Variety also found that the updated memo removed promises that the company would not make employees take pay cuts in the face of Netflix’s own financial struggles.

These updates come as employee morale has reportedly dropped and editorial staffers at the Netflix website TuDum were laid off en masse. Those employees were offered two weeks of severance pay—and Netflix has now cut a section in the memo promising four months of full pay as severance.

As the company that literally wrote the book on corporate culture faces internal struggles, it's unlikely that making employees take on more responsibility while prioritizing corporate secrecy and discouraging content criticism will improve morale.

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