A referendum is being held on a new law requiring video streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to pay a fee that will benefit Swiss film productions.
Swiss television stations, but not streaming platforms such as Netflix, have to invest four per cent of their turnover in Swiss filmmaking. With the revision of the Federal Act on Film Productions and Film Culture, this is to be changed. Under the so-called “Lex Netflix”, streaming platforms will also have to invest 4 percent of income generated in Switzerland in domestic productions. This rule will also apply to TV stations with Swiss advertising windows.
If they choose not to invest, they will have to pay a levy to the Federal Office of Culture (FOC). This is expected to generate between CHF18 million ($19.3 million) and CHF30 million ($32 million) per year for the Swiss film industry, according to estimates from the FOC and the Swiss Parlament.
But there are fears that it could drive subscription prices for streaming services up. These fears have prompted opponents to collect signatures for a referendum to overturn the law. Critics also believe that streaming services will try to make up for the higher costs by licensing less content for their Swiss subscribers. It will result in fewer movies and series being made available to a Swiss audience.
The youth wings of Switzerland’s major political parties (the centre-right Radical-Liberal Party, the right-wing People’s Party, the centrist Liberal Green Party and the Centre Party) had already announced a referendum before the government decision to impose a levy of 4 percent was made. However, filmmakers seem to have largely welcomed the extra source of income, as this report from Swiss Public Television, SRF, shows.
In line with Europe
Other European countries impose similar taxes. France has a levy of 25 percent and Italy 20 percent. The Lex Netflix also dictates that European films must make up 30 percent of all content. This falls in line with European Union requirements.