South African Government Now Seeks to Regulate Netflix Content

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A new white paper proposal from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies is set to enforce locally produced content on digital streaming services, with Netflix zeroed in. The paper also seeks to apply other regulations to these services, according to Business Tech.

The white paper proposal, contained in the department’s Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services policy framework, suggests that the department will regulate up to 30% of the video catalogue that Netflix has available in South Africa.

Netflix’s director of public policy for sub-Saharan Africa, Shola Sanni, says that the streaming goliath is already investing heavily in producing and releasing local content in the country and intends to continue to do so. Netflix warns that this new proposal is not feasible for their business model as a global streaming service.

The new proposal may hinder Netflix’s productions in the country, which Sanni says are not legal obligations, but rather producing content in South Africa for South Africans “makes business sense”.

Netflix Suggests Revisions Instead

Netflix has suggested a revision of the proposal, instead of imposing local content quotas in proportion to the video catalogue, the government should refocus on incentivizing local content providers to make more investments in local content productions.

According to Sanni, Netflix does more good for South Africa than just investing in local content production. “There’s also a multiplier effect with any investment: the economic impact of each of our projects in South Africa is several times greater than the actual dollars invested,” she says.

Sanni says that more people watch its South African content internationally than in South Africa itself. With shows like Blood and Water receiving 14-million views outside of the country.

South African produced series like Queen Sono and Shadow were amongst the top 10 most viewed products in North America, Australia and many countries in Europe and South America in their first four weeks after release.

Netflix Warns of Further Harm

The streaming service has warned that many other requirements of the proposal will be harmful, including one that requires content providers to release financials, subscriber data and other information to regulators in SA.

Sanni suggests that this will not only be an administrative burden for the government’s already capacity-constrained regulator, but for other online content service providers operating in the country.

“This is coupled with the need to regulate hundreds or perhaps even thousands of online entertainment services accessible to South African citizens,” she says.

“Consumers might be faced with higher costs and fewer choices and fewer providers would also mean less investment in high-quality South African content and less opportunity for local talent.”

By Luis Monzon
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