On 15 May 2022, the Swiss electorate will vote on an Amendment to the Federal Act on Film Production and Film Culture.
In Switzerland, domestic television broadcasters are obliged to invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss filmmaking.
However, films and series are increasingly also offered by global companies via streaming services such as Netflix. These international companies are currently not legally subject to the same requirement to provide money to the Swiss film sector.
To include global streamers, the government amended Switzerland’s Film Act. The amendment allows the companies to put the money in directly or into an umbrella fund.
In addition, these international media operators must ensure that 30% of the content presented in Switzerland is produced in Europe.
However, as is often the case, 50,000 plus signatures were collected, opening the way for a public vote with the aim of striking down the government’s legal change, something the organisers refer to as the “Netflix tax”.
Vote organisers argue that via their subscriptions, everyone will be forced to pay for content that will be of interest to only a niche audience. They also argues that the government, not regular viewers, should be funding culture. Netflix is already more than 40% more expensive in Switzerland than it is in Germany and Swiss taxpayers give CHF 100 million to the Swiss film industry each year.
Those in support of the law don’t view the charge as a tax. Instead they see it as support for local culture. The government is strongly in favour of the change, arguing that it fixes the unequal treatment of global and local broadcasters and helps with the digital transition.
The Federal Council, Parliament (127 for, 67 against with 3 abstentions) and the Council of States (32 for, 8 against with 4 abstentions) are all in favour of extending the 4% levy to international streaming services.
Recent polls run in May 2022 show a moderate majority (56%) of voters are favourable to the levy with 37% in favour and 19% fairly in favour of the government’s amendment.