Home Entertainment Government wants Netflix and other streaming services to offer 30% local content

Government wants Netflix and other streaming services to offer 30% local content

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If you can’t beat them, join them. At least that’s the way the saying originally goes. If you’re the South African government who is still trying to justify the existence of an aging broadcaster like SABC, the saying is more like, if you can’t join them, beat them. With a stick, as hard as possible until they run away.

That appears to be what the government is trying to do as the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has released a proposal–which they are opening up for public comment–which will require all streaming services available in the country to offer 30 percent local content on their platform.

Along with the relevant taxes, this will be a new requirement for these services to be allowed to operate in the country. This proposal also comes shortly after plans were announced to force anyone who could access streaming services on an electronic device, to start forking out for a TV license.

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% of that catalogue must be South African content.

What this means is that we are trying to create opportunities for the production and creative industry sector.

Chief director of broadcasting policy Collin Mashile

Now I can personally understand the need to want to tax these companies that are making decent money locally and even ask them to promote the local industry by producing original content here, but expecting the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney to offer 30 percent local content when their entire service offering is built on a massive catalog of international content is a little arrogant. Especially when the likes of Netflix have been investing quite heavily in producing original African content already.

Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ may have a lot of money, but given the amount of content they already own, it would be expensive for them to produce that much local content and will lead to one of the following scenarios:

They all license the same local content and every streaming service will be filled with horrible Leon Schuster movies and Scandal reruns,

They only release a fraction of their international content in South Africa to maintain the 70/30 split.

Or their pull out entirely.

Sadly, it’s the latter two scenarios that are likely to happen and we may end up not getting big streaming services coming this way as a result of government inteference.

While its fair to expect some level of taxation and local content, 30 percent is perhaps too high and we may land up becoming a nation of starved of international streaming content and see divestment of international companies in our entertainment industry rather than further investment. It’s like the previous decree where all radio stations had to play mostly local music all over again, back when former SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng was in charge. What could possibly go wrong?

Let’s hope these proposals get amended further before getting finalised. I believe we should continue to support the local entertainment industry as much as possible, but not through draconian and oppressive laws.

Last Updated: November 26, 2020

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