Govt not backing down on 30% local content proposal for Netflix

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The government is not backing down from its controversial proposal that Netflix, Showmax and other online streaming services should have a 30 percent local content quota.

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies first made the proposal in its white paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services policy framework.

The white paper is currently open for public comments until February 2021 after the Department gazetted it in October.

Increasing opportunities

In a presentation to Parliament on Wednesday, the Department’s chief director for broadcasting policy Collin Mashile said the proposal is aimed at increasing opportunities for South Africa’s production and creative industry sector.

“Where video-on-demand subscription services come and operate in South Africa, everything that they show to South Africans in terms of their catalogue – 30 percent of that catalogue must be South African content,” he said.

Mashile said local content remains popular, citing the success of Netflix’s Queen Sono which stars Pearl Thusi and was created by Kagiso Lediga.

“This is one of the most positive policy proposals because of its intended goals. The most popular shows in every country remain the local shows,” he maintained.

Opposition

The proposal has however elicited some opposition from various groups such as the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).

In its response to the white paper, OUTA said imposing a 30 percent local content quota “is a blatant rebuttal of freedom of choice, the democratisation of information and universal access.”

Besides the content quota, the white paper also proposes expanding the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online streaming services.

This means that a TV licence fee could be payable even on online streaming services, regardless of the device used.

The DA has stated that it is “unequivocally opposed to any efforts that would require any additional payment of TV license fees.”

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