Local quotas & higher subscription fees?: Here's how proposed regulations could change the way you Netflix

26 November 2020 - 13:00 By unathi nkanjeni
The department of communications and digital technologies proposed that streaming services like Netflix should feature 30% local content.
The department of communications and digital technologies proposed that streaming services like Netflix should feature 30% local content.

Streaming services such as Netflix could soon be forced to provide 30% local content.

This comes after the department of communications and digital technologies tabled its proposal on Wednesday, calling for local content quotas on streaming services.

The proposal was made by the department’s chief director of broadcasting policy, Collin Mashile.

It comes just weeks after plans were announced that anyone who has access to streaming services on any electronic device should start paying for a TV licence.

Here is what you need to know:

30% local content

According to Mashile, local content on streaming services would create opportunities for SA production companies and the creative industry sector.

He said the numbers and revenue performance of South African drama and music should be enabled by further policy interventions within the audiovisual broadcasting space.

“Where video-on-demand subscription services come and operate in SA, everything that they show to South Africans in terms of their catalogue, 30% of that catalogue must be South African content,” Mashile said.

Why only 30% on streaming services

Mashile said local content was popular on streaming sites such as Netflix, citing the success of Queen Sono which stars actress Pearl Thusi and was created by Kagiso Lediga.

“Now you are seeing various subscription services producing very good, high-quality South African content like Queen Sono and others ... This is one of the most positive policy proposals because of its intended goals,” he said.

Mashile said the decision for only 30% was because “the most popular shows in every country remain the local shows”.

“South Africans are interested [in 30%], the production sector is interested and the video-on-demand subscription services are also interested,” he said.

And my bill? Will I be paying more for Netflix?

Streaming services are yet to confirm whether the proposed regulations will affect pricing, with many subscribers taking to social media to share their fears that it might. 

Currently, Netflix has three plans for SA viewers, ranging from R99 to R169 per month.

According to the SABC, first-time applicants for a TV licence must pay a full annual fee of R265. Renewals must be made each year before the licence expires and these payments can be spread throughout the year at R28 per month.

Monthly payments are subject to “a small premium” for the convenience, therefore bringing the total cost for the year to R336.

Forgetting to renew your TV licence means a penalty of 10% per month to a maximum of 100% per annum.

Is anyone fighting the proposal?

The proposal was opposed by Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).

In its response, Outa's executive manager Julius Kleynhans said imposing a 30% local content quota “is a blatant rebuttal of freedom of choice, the democratisation of information and universal access”.

“Whichever way you look at it, citizens once again have to pay for government’s incompetence and failure to run state-owned enterprises like the SABC,” said Kleynhans.

“We will be forced to throw more money at the SABC despite its systemic corruption, maladministration, service issues and outdated and unappealing television content.”  

I have something to say about the proposals, what can I do?

The public has until next week Monday to submit their comments, inputs or written representations on the draft white paper. Submissions should be sent via e-mail, no later than 4pm.

“Late submissions may not be considered,” said the department.