Government wants a 30% local content quota for streaming services – Here is why

The government plans to enforce a 30% local content quota for Internet streaming services in South Africa to promote local content and languages.

Responding to written parliamentary questions from DA Deputy Chief Whip Michael Waters, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams confirmed this local content requirement and explained the reasons behind it.

This requirement is part of the changes proposed in the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-Visual Content Services Policy Framework, which aims to “reposition the audio-visual media sectors for future growth and promote investments”.

“Under paragraph 5.2.8, where we deal with the Promotion of South African Content and languages, the Draft White Paper, in paragraph 5.2.8.9, indicates that in respect of on-demand content services targeting South African audiences, they should also have South African content obligations,” Ndabeni-Abrahams said.

“These South African content obligations can apply in a cascading manner distinguishing between individual and class licensees and whether the service is public, commercial, or community/non-profit in nature and should not exceed 30% of the video catalogue.”

Waters asked the Minister why she wanted to compel Internet streaming services to provide 30% local content, and what research shows that South African viewers want a 30% local content quota.

“Honourable Waters, as part of the consultation process, the department would appreciate your formal comments in terms of why you believe this might be wrong or right, but the regulatory policy intention is to promote South African content and languages within the current audio and audiovisual ecosystem,” Ndabeni-Abrahams replied.

The draft white paper notes that the 30% content requirement should be set by the regulator in a graduated manner considering the nature of the streaming service in question.

It is not clear whether the government will require international streaming services such as Netflix to adhere to this content quota, as it may be defined as a “streaming service targeting South African audiences”.

Crackdown on Netflix and YouTube

The white paper also proposes new licence requirements for Internet streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV+.

It proposes two different types of licences: individual and class licences.

On-demand services which had an annual turnover of between R50 million and R99 million in the previous financial year will require a class licence. Services which turned over R100 million or more in the previous financial year must apply for an individual operating licence.

While international services such as Netflix will require licences to operate in South Africa, video sharing platforms like YouTube will be exempt.

YouTube will not be exempt from regulation under the proposed rules, however, as it will have to abide by local legislation around hate speech, incitement to violence, and the protection of minors.

Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the proposed policy framework by 30 November 2020.

Now read: TV Licence prices – South Africa vs The World

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Government wants a 30% local content quota for streaming services – Here is why