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SWISS REFERENDUM

Lex Netflix: What Switzerland’s streaming referendum could mean for you

When it comes to internationally renowned cinema, Switzerland may not be the first country that immediately springs to mind, but a law being voted on this Sunday seeks to change that by forcing streaming services to invest in local moviemaking.

Lex Netflix: What Switzerland's streaming referendum could mean for you
Depending on the results of the vote, streaming services may become more regulated. Photo: Pixabay

The so-called “Lex Netflix” referendum looks set to pass by a narrow margin, according to recent opinion polls. Under Switzerland’s famous direct democracy system, voters will decide on an amendment to the Film Production Act adopted by parliament last October.

The change takes into account the dramatic shift in how audiovisual content is consumed, requiring global streaming platforms like Netflix to help finance Swiss film production.

The aim is to boost innovation and help Swiss cinema gain more international traction.

“Swiss cinema has become much more international. This new step will allow it to go even further,” said Swiss director Lionel Baier, whose movie “Continental Drift” has been selected for this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

‘Raise the bar’ 

“It will raise the bar in terms of quality and ambition,” he told AFP, adding it would push Swiss directors to “imagine that the series or film you are making will be seen on platforms the world over”.

In a bid to prop up the costly business of film production, domestic television broadcasters have since 2007 been obliged to invest four percent of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works 

But until now, global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue, which rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in Switzerland each year, have not been asked to pitch in.

If approved, the amended law will submit them to the same rule.

The streaming services would be given the choice either to participate directly in Swiss film and series production or pay a substitute levy aimed at financing movie promotion.

Cinema production in Switzerland has in recent years received 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) in annual financing on average, according to the culture ministry. 

‘A boost’ 

If Lex Netflix passes, the sector can add an additional 18 million francs to its coffers each year, it said. The platforms will also have to ensure European-made films or series make up at least 30 percent of the content available in Switzerland, as they are already required to do in the European Union.

Right-leaning opponents of the amendment, who forced the issue to a referendum, have slammed that quota, warning that the likes of Spotify and Apple Music could soon be subjected to a similar rule.

They also warn the investment obligation will hike subscription prices.

The culture ministry has rejected that argument, pointing to France, where it says that introducing an obligation to invest up to 25 percent of proceeds had entailed no price increases.

Swiss film library chief Frederic Maire insisted the reform would “give Swiss cinema a boost” thanks to additional funds but also the promise of more distribution of Swiss-produced content.

“This can only be beneficial, because… more production means more interesting works and thus, over time, maybe more prizes and more visibility for Swiss cinema,” he told AFP.

The reform’s defenders say it would make it possible to shoot more movies in Switzerland, which would benefit local economies.

What else is at stake on May 15th?

Sunday, May 15th, sees the latest round of Swiss referenda. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s May referendums?

On a federal level, three questions are up for consideration: Netflix and streaming, organ donation rules and Frontex. More information on these votes are available at the following links. 

READ MORE: What is the ‘Netflix vote’ and how could it change TV in Switzerland?

EXPLAINED: What Switzerland’s ‘organ donation’ vote means for you

Frontex: How Switzerland’s ‘border vote’ on May 15th could impact travel

There are also dozens of referendum questions being asked at a cantonal level all across the country. 

In Zurich, voters will go to the polls to decide on several questions. 

Perhaps the most relevant for Local readers is the referendum on improving the naturalisation process, including making the system uniform across each of the canton’s 162 municipalities. 

Detailed information is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

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ZURICH

Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

Voters in Switzerland’s most populous canton on Sunday approved a proposal which will make it easier for foreigners to get Swiss citizenship.

Zurich approves simplified path to Swiss citizenship

The vote passed with 69.1 percent support, making it the most popular of the four initiatives put to the polls. 

Around 350,000 foreigners live in Zurich, which is roughly one quarter of the population – although the percentage is as high as 50 percent in some municipalities. 

The successful proposal called for Zurich’s naturalisation process, including the citizenship exam, to be made uniform across all 162 municipalities. 

The questions in the exam will now be centralised on a cantonal level. 

The test will include 350 questions about Swiss history, tradition, politics and culture, with a focus on Zurich. 

Anyone taking the test will be given 50 questions at random and must answer at least 30 correctly to pass. 

More information about the citizenship process in Zurich can be found at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

What else was decided on Sunday? 

Voters in Zurich also decided to reject a proposal to lower the voting age to 16, with 64.1 percent saying ‘nein’ to the proposal. 

A proposal to provide for more parental leave – and even up gender imbalances between fathers and mothers – was also rejected. 

Finally, voters supported law changes which sought to enshrine Zurich’s climate change goals in the cantonal constitution. 

A detailed breakdown of the vote can be seen here. 

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