Swiss referendum For Members

Is Switzerland set to hold a referendum on Netflix?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 15 Oct, 2021 Updated Fri 15 Oct 2021 16:13 CEST
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If the initiative does go to the ballot box and is rejected, streaming services in Switzerland will get more expensive. The outcome may depend on the …weather.

During the autumn session of the parliament, MPs decided that streaming platforms and private TV channels in Switzerland, including Netflix, should invest 4 percent of their profits in national film production.

Additionally, 30 percent of content that streaming providers show must be European.

The so-called 'Lex Netflix' is a an amendment to a wider legislation that promotes the development of Swiss cinema.

However, the youth sections of some of Switzerland’s political parties — the Liberal Radicals (PLR), Swiss People’s Party (SVP), and  Liberal Greens — are launching a referendum against this revision, arguing that it would increase the already high price of subscriptions to the streaming platforms.

Under the Swiss system of direct democracy, any citizen or group can challenge a law if enough signatures are collected on a petition. To pass, the initiative requires 50,000 signatures - which would result in a nationwide vote. 

The cost argument is likely to affect particularly young Netflix viewers in Switzerland, according to Matthias Müller, president of Young Liberal Radicals, who also heads the referendum committee.

On the upside, an analysis earlier this year found that although Netflix in Switzerland charges the most for a standard subscription, this pays off with the particularly large selection of films and series in comparison to other countries. 

In an interview with Watson news site, Müller pointed out that the amendment is unfair as Swiss filmmaking is already subsidised to the tune of 150 million francs per year.

"The Netflix Law is an unspeakable attack on the wallets of the consumers”, he said.

He added that consumers should not be forced to co-finance Swiss films.

“The promotion of cinema should be a mission of the State. It should be financed by taxpayers' money”.

Less daylight, colder weather

The committee is launching the referendum on October 15th, but collecting the 50,000 signatures needed for the national vote will be a challenge, Müller said.

The main obstacle is the weather and shorter days.

According to Müller, when it gets dark earlier in the evening and the temperatures drop, the motivation of citizens to sign a referendum sheet outside on cold clipboards is low.

“Fall and winter are not an easy time to collect signatures in public places. But we're still motivated to tackle it because we see major disadvantages of the film tax and the mandatory quota for Swiss films”, he said.

The “Netflix” levy already exists in other countries, according to Watson.

In France, there is an “investment obligation” of 25 percent, and Italy requires 20 percent. Neither country saw a decrease in subscribers, Watson reports.




Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2021/10/15 16:13

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