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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
Netflix has pulled the plug on two Danish productions after local agreement requires more pay, rights for industry creatives. 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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SWISS REFERENDUM

Swiss head towards popular vote on US fighter jets purchase

A Swiss alliance seeking to block the purchase of F-35A fighter jets handed over enough signatures to the authorities on Tuesday to force a popular vote on the issue.

Swiss head towards popular vote on US fighter jets purchase

The left-leaning “Stop-F-35” alliance handed over the 100,000 signatures required under Switzerland’s direct democracy system to take any subject to a vote.

Once authorities have verified the signatures, the government will be required to set a date for a popular vote.

“This initiative is only targeting the type of plane,” the alliance stressed in a statement, adding that if Switzerland chooses another fighter jet, “the initiative will be withdrawn.”

The Swiss government agreed in June last year to buy 36 F-35As from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The purchase followed the narrow referendum approval in September 2020 for the military to spend six billion Swiss francs to acquire a new
fleet.

The F-35A combat aircraft — already used by the US Air Force and several European countries — was chosen ahead of the Airbus Eurofighter, the F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing, and French firm Dassault’s Rafale.

The government said the plane was the best, but two Swiss parliamentary committees launched an investigation into why the model was chosen after a series of technical problems reported with the plane in the United States.

They also questioned the high cost of the planes.

The “Stop-F-35” alliance was formed to try to force the issue to a fresh popular vote.

But despite the concerns, the government announced in May that it wanted to speed up the purchase process, with the US offer expiring at the end of March 2023, raising fears that Bern would not wait for a popular vote on the matter.

“The government and parliament must now do everything possible to enable a popular vote and an urgent and necessary public debate about the largest military equipment contract in Swiss history,” the alliance said on its website.

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