Government says 30% of content on Netflix and other streaming services must be South African

 ·25 Nov 2020

The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies said that it plans to enforce local content quotas on streaming services such as Netflix.

The proposal is contained in the department’s white paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services policy framework which is currently open for public comment. The department presented the framework to parliament on Wednesday (25 November).

In his presentation, the department’s chief director of broadcasting policy Collin Mashile said that local content should be ‘enabled’ by further policy interventions within the audiovisual broadcasting space.

“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,” Mashile said.

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

While US-based streaming services like Netflix have increased local content output in recent years, making just under a third of all content on the platform local may prove particularly onerous for the streaming giant.

Mashile addressed this by pointing to the popularity of local shows in South Africa. “We were asked where we got the idea that South Africans are interested in this 30%,” he said. “The most popular shows in every country remain the local shows.”

The White Paper also broadens definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online broadcasting services.

By implication, that would require the payment of a license fee for the viewing any “broadcasting services” which would include a streaming services, regardless of the device on which it is viewed.

In an op-ed published at the start of November, the SABC’s head of TV licences Sylvia Tladi said that changes need to be made to South Africa’s broadcasting regulations – including an expanded definition of a ‘TV set’ or now, a broadcasting device.

Some of the devices which are being considered under this expanded definition include:

  • Laptops;
  • Tablets;
  • IPTV;
  • Internet;
  • Decoders;
  • Set-top boxes;
  • Smartphones.

Tladi said that these devices, which have resulted in new media platforms and content dissemination channels, have a direct impact on TV licence legislation.

She said that the SABC’s submission also calls for an overhauled TV licence fee system and changes to the legislation regarding public funding strategies envisaged by TV licences.

“To ensure maximum compliance with legislative requirements concerning the payment of TV licence fees, the SABC proposes that the act should place stricter obligations on all relevant stakeholders or role players because the ‘traditional’ television set is no longer the only means of receiving a television broadcast.

“Therefore, to administer compliance on the payment of licence fees, the SABC is of the view that other entities must be compelled to report on the sale, lease or usage of these ‘television sets’ or ‘viewing devices’.

Read: Government pushes ahead with TV licences for Netflix, and other changes

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