Netflix, Disney and Amazon will have to invest in Swiss cinema

Under the new law adopted today, online platforms will have to pay at least 4% of their total sales each year to create Swiss series and films. Keystone / Michael Buholzer

A new cinema law that obliges broadcast giants to invest in Swiss series and films was voted on by popular vote on Sunday. Thus, Switzerland joins European countries, including Italy, France and Spain, which already provide for similar obligations.

This content was published on May 15, 2022 at 5:46 p.m.

Luigi Jorio of Keystone-ATS

The video-on-demand platforms of companies such as Netflix, Disney, Amazon and HBO will have to finance the production of “Made in Switzerland” films, as will national television. The amendment to the federal law on film production and culture, which was put to the federal vote on Sunday, was accepted by 58% of voters. The participation rate was 39.5%.

The vast majority of cantons expressed support for the new law, with percentages ranging from 50.6% in St. Gallen to 76.1% in Vaud. In general, the French cantons tended to be more supportive. In addition to Vaud, Geneva and Neuchâtel stand out with percentages of “yes” votes of 74.6% and 70.5% respectively. Only seven cantons refused the reform (Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Schaffhausen, Appenzell-Inruden and Thurgau).

New opportunities for the Swiss film industry

“These ‘yes’ are very important for the film industry, for tourism and for Switzerland,” said Matthias Ebecher, socialist deputy and president of the central organization of the Swiss film and audiovisual industry Cinesuisse.

The referendum commission took advantage of fears of rising prices to oppose a project that would benefit everyone, Ebecher told Keystone-ATS. Through its live streaming services, Swiss films are shown not only in the union, but all over the world. He is also Switzerland’s top tourism publicist. Netflix must now produce series and the like in the Confederation as well, not just in the United States. We don’t see how that would make production more expensive, Ebecher said.

“We will be able to introduce new formats and cooperation with foreign countries will increase.”

Geraldine Rudd, Director

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“Today’s population has sent a clear signal in favor of our filmmakers and our audiovisual industry,” added Marie-France-Ruth Pasquier, member of the Center coalition. With the new law, Switzerland will be on an equal footing with many neighboring countries and will gain real market opportunities internationally.

For Geraldine Rudd, director of the Young Web Series, “the industry will have new opportunities”. “We will be able to introduce new formats and cooperation with foreign countries will intensify,” said French-language radio and television station Radio Suisse.

For Federal Chancellor Alain Berset, this is “good news for the Swiss film and audiovisual industry”. This is a result which “demonstrates the importance that the population attaches to culture and is indicative of the cultural diversity of our country”. “The law – continued the Minister of Culture – will fill a gap by putting foreign television, broadcasters and Swiss radio services on an equal footing.” It will also allow Swiss industry to maintain its competitiveness in the European context, where there is already an obligation to invest.

4% of Swiss cinema revenues

Under the new law, called Lex Netflix, online platforms will have to pay at least 4% of their total sales each year to produce Swiss series and films. The rule also obliges streaming platforms to provide at least 30% of series or films produced in Europe.

Foreign broadcasters who broadcast advertising windows intended for the Swiss public will also have to contribute to the pluralism of cinematographic exposure. The legislative amendment stipulates that they can participate directly in Swiss productions or pay an alternative fee to promote national cinema.

The new measures will make it possible to pay an additional 18 million francs annually for local film production, according to estimates by the Federal Department of Culture. This money will go to films, documentaries or series produced by independent Swiss companies and to an international co-production with Swiss participation.

Commenting on the results of the Lex Netflix poll, Freiburg city manager Pierre Monnard warned that the German-speaking part of the country should avoid taking all the money. “It’s a big victory for the sector in the face of the ‘ideological’ arguments of the referenda,” he said. We must now ensure that all regions of the country will benefit in the future. “We must not forget that Zurich is the center of film production in Switzerland,” recalls Monard, inviting French and Italian speakers to be creative so that their projects are chosen on all platforms.

“We wanted to defend the youth”

Alec von Barnico, deputy head of the youth department of the Radical Liberal Party (FDP), replied at the start of the referendum with the CDU youth of centrists and liberals: “We expected a closer result”. Greens (PVL). However, von Parnico said: “The result is not so bad for a young party, which had to fight MPs from the Liberal Democratic Party, the Federal Council and the majority of Parliament.”

“We wanted to stand up for consumers, especially young people,” von Barnico told Keystone-ATS. Those who oppose the bill fear the move will put pressure on streaming platforms to raise the cost of subscriptions, which are already among the most expensive in Switzerland. For Democratic National Attorney Mike Iger, it’s clear that streaming services will become more expensive under the new law. With this legislation, he added, residents will have access to a television program by order of the state.

Virginie Cavalli, co-chair of Young PVL, said young parties will remain vigilant to see if, for example, there will be no “Lex Spotify” for music services. He pointed out that the result of the vote shows that people are aware of what they consume from live streaming services.

What are other European countries doing?

The financial contribution that streaming giants must make to artistic creativity has become an important aspect of the cultural policy of many countries in the face of the transfer of profits abroad. The European Parliament has raised its voice against these platforms since 2018. In addition to public and private television channels, web giants must also be called upon to support local film production.

Most European countries have introduced a sales tax or an investment requirement. Some apply both tools. Then, the European Union requires online services to offer 30% of European products. Some countries have introduced a larger quota or sub-quota to allocate national production. In addition, broadcasting platforms operating in the European Union are required to broadcast European series and films.

to ItalyVOD services must devote at least 20% of their net income to European productions. This share is 26% in France, which also imposes a 2% tax on Aboriginal film production. to SpainCompulsory investment 5%, in Portugal 1%.

to Germany Platforms with revenues above 20 million euros pay a 2.5% royalty, which drops to 1.8% for those with low revenues. The investment commitment is also under discussion.

FinlandAND SwedenAND NorwayAND Ireland AND Netherlands You have an open-ended investment commitment. Services should promote European production as much as possible.

I ‘Austria and the UK They have no taxes or investment obligations. the Belgium and the Czech republic They have the choice between investment or tax.

According to JTI standards

According to JTI standards

Further developments: SWI swissinfo.ch certified by the Press Trust Initiative

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