When it comes to internationally acclaimed cinema, Switzerland may not be the first country that immediately comes to mind, but a law currently being voted on seeks to change that by requiring streaming services to invest in the local cinema.
The so-called ‘Lex Netflix’ referendum is expected to pass by a narrow margin, according to recent opinion polls.
Under Switzerland’s famous system of direct democracy, voters will vote on an amendment to the film production law passed by parliament last October.
The change takes into account the radical change in the way audiovisual content is consumed, requiring global streaming platforms like Netflix to help fund Swiss film production.
The aim is to stimulate innovation and help Swiss cinema to gain ground internationally.
“Swiss cinema has become much more international. This new step will allow him to go even further”, declared the Swiss director Lionel Baier, whose film “Continental Drift” was selected this year at the Cannes Film Festival.
‘Raise the bar’
“It will raise the bar in terms of quality and ambition,” he told AFP, adding that it would push Swiss directors to “imagine that the series or film you are making will be seen on platforms around the world”.
In order to support the expensive activity of film production, national television channels have been obliged since 2007 to invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss film production.
But so far, global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue, which bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in Switzerland every year, have not been tapped.
If approved, the amended law will subject them to the same rule.
Streaming services would have the choice either to participate directly in the Swiss production of films and series, or to pay a substitution fee intended to finance the promotion of the films.
Film production in Switzerland has received 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) in annual funding on average in recent years, according to the culture ministry.
“A helping hand”
If Lex Netflix passes, the industry can add another CHF 18 million to its coffers each year, he said.
The platforms will also have to ensure that European-made films or series represent at least 30% of the content available in Switzerland, as they are already required to do in the European Union.
Right-wing opponents of the amendment, who forced the issue to a referendum, slammed that quota, warning that Spotify and Apple Music could soon be subject to a similar rule.
They also warn that the investment requirement will increase subscription prices.
The Ministry of Culture rejected this argument, pointing the finger at France, where it claims that the introduction of an obligation to invest up to 25% of revenue had not led to any price increase.
The director of the Swiss Cinematheque, Frederic Maire, insisted that the reform would “give a boost to Swiss cinema”, thanks to additional funds, but also the promise of greater distribution of content produced in Swiss.
“This can only be beneficial, because… more production means more interesting works and therefore, over time, perhaps more prizes and more visibility for Swiss cinema,” he said. at AFP.
Advocates of the reform say it would allow more films to be shot in Switzerland, which would benefit local economies. J.B.
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