Swiss Cinema

The ‘Lex Netflix’ referendum will be voted on in Switzerland this Sunday as the law aims to force streaming services to invest in Swiss Cinema. Image via Unsplash.

‘Lex Netflix’: Switzerland seek rejuvenation for its film industry

The “Lex Netflix” referendum in Switzerland aims to force streaming services to invest in local filmmaking and boost Swiss cinema.

Swiss Cinema

The ‘Lex Netflix’ referendum will be voted on in Switzerland this Sunday as the law aims to force streaming services to invest in Swiss Cinema. Image via Unsplash.

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.

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HELPING SWISS CINEMA GAIN MORE INTERNATIONAL TRACTION

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.

Lionel Baier

RAISING THE SWISS CINEMA 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”.

Lionel Baier

In a bid to prop up the costly business of film production, domestic television broadcasters have since 2007 been obliged to invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

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 (R1.7 billion) in annual financing on average, according to the culture ministry.

LEX NETFLIX BILL CAN ADD MILLIONS TO SWISS CINEMA

If Lex Netflix passes, the sector can add an additional 18 million francs (R293 million) to its coffers each year, it said.

The platforms will also have to ensure European-made films or series make up at least 30% 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% of proceeds had entailed no price increases.

GIVING SWISS CINEMA A BOOST

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.

Frederic Maire

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

© Agence France-Presse/Agnès Pedrero