Netflix has not given its content to the Film and Publication Board for classification, nor has it paid a R795,000 “licensing fee” for online distribution.
However, “the honeymoon will soon be over,” said FPB COO Sipho Risiba.
Risiba said it is not only Netflix which is not complying with the FPB Act, but several online distributors.
“There are a number of local content distributors we’ve engaged with and we’re getting an attitude with these people,” said Risiba.
Legality of the R795,000 licensing fee
Telecommunications lawyer Dominic Cull of Ellipsis Regulatory Solutions said the FPB is acting outside the scope of its powers in requiring Netflix to register as an “online content distributor”.
While Cull said Netflix is an excellent example of online content the FPB should regulate, in requiring a “license fee” it is acting outside the law which gives it power – the FPB Act.
Risiba disagreed with Cull, saying the licensing fee was gazetted by a government minister.
The FPB is working on revising its tariff structure, but Risiba said they view the tariff process and lack of compliance from digital distributors as separate issues.
Until the revised tariffs are implemented, online distributors have to pay the fees prescribed.
“The R795,000 figure… may not be fair, it may not be reasonable, it may end up not being constitutional, but it is the law currently until a competent court pronounces otherwise,” said Risiba.
Not just about Netflix
Risiba said we live in a country which has rules, and the FPB has a responsibility to ensure the industry complies with the Film and Publications Act.
The issue is “not really about Netflix”, but about ensuring compliance with the law, said Risiba.
He did not go into detail about the steps the FPB will take against distributors which aren’t complying with the law, but said they have plans to deal with them.
“You shouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow there is litigation against these entities,” he said.