‘Swiss cinema doesn’t need extra money to be successful’

© Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Swiss cinema should not seek refuge in Lex Netflix, according to co-chair of the Young Green Liberals Virginie Cavalli. For this member of the referendum committee, the bill put to the vote is useless and will cause harm to the consumer.

This content was published on April 26, 2022 – 14:00

The young people of the right-wing parties do not want the amendment of the film law, which was presented to the people on May 15. At the origin of the referendum, she is afraid to see the prices of online viewing platforms take the elevator and does not want to impose on her what to look for.

The new law, also known as Lex Netflix, stipulates that streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon or Disney+ will pay a minimum of 4% of their gross revenues to the Swiss film industry every year. They will also be required to program 30% of European films.

Nearly half of European states have already taken similar measures. In particular, France introduced a 26% reinvestment obligation and Italy 20%.

To find out what’s at stake in the vote on the new movie law, see our explanatory article:

Proponents believe that the new legislation will allow for some diversity in the provision of online services. Virginie Cavalli, member of the referendum committee and co-chair of the Young Green Liberals, does not believe it. She believes that Swiss cinema should strive for democratization rather than demand more financial support.

swissinfo.ch: National and regional television channels already have to invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss cinematographic creation. Shouldn’t streaming platforms have the same obligation to ensure equal treatment?

Virginie Cavalli: No, because they are very different service providers. Suppliers who do not invest 4% of their turnover in Swiss cinema will have to pay a replacement tax. In my opinion, the major streaming platforms will pay the tax rather than invest in our movie production and pass the extra costs on to the consumer.

In addition, the new law discriminates against private Swiss television channels. Until now, the latter could count as investments for Swiss cinema commercials. In the future this will only be possible to a limited extent. They will therefore have to reinvest in Swiss cinema, while their own productions, which do not receive the money from the license fee, are not supported and suffer as a result.

However, countries that have already introduced an investment obligation pay their subscription to streaming services cheaper than in Switzerland. Isn’t this likely to reassure you about the impact of the law on consumers?

There is always someone who has to pay afterwards. Smaller platforms will simply leave the Swiss market, as they cannot afford the additional costs. As for international platforms, they will inevitably pass the extra costs on to Swiss users, who also have significant purchasing power. These companies are pragmatic.

Shouldn’t we rather see the new law as an opportunity to see our film productions showcased around the world?

There are already successful Swiss films, which did not need extra money to become known beyond our borders. Swiss cinema is already heavily subsidized by the government, amounting to more than 100 million francs a year.

Almost half of European countries have chosen to invest in bonds. In Portugal, this obligation is only 1%, but rises to 20% in Italy and 26% in France. Shouldn’t Switzerland follow the trend to prevent streaming platform revenues from simply being invested abroad?

International comparisons are difficult to make. For example, we cannot really compare the French film market with the Swiss market. Swiss films are mainly author films that only reach a niche audience, which is not the case in France. So we cannot apply the same system. In Switzerland, this law serves certain interests and not those of the majority. In 2019, before the coronavirus crisis, only two Swiss films passed 100,000 admissions. There is a problem with the democratization of this content. Swiss cinema struggles to find its audience.

The new law also aims to force streaming services to broadcast 30% of content produced in Switzerland or Europe, as European Union (EU) countries already do. Can Switzerland remain isolated by not taking a similar measure?

This broadcasting obligation will not necessarily have an impact on the major platforms, as they already have the structures in place to implement this measure. They will just have additional bureaucracy and more costs. On the other hand, small video-on-demand services that offer specific content will be penalized. We risk losing some diversity. We can think of platforms specializing in manga, Indian movies or even pornographic movies. They too will be subject to this law and will have difficulty complying with it.

Moreover, in a multicultural and globalized Switzerland, it is problematic to promote Swiss and European productions. This quota represents discrimination against producers from countries outside the EU and constitutes a withdrawal in itself.

This quota is also a requirement of the EU to allow Switzerland to re-join the European cultural support program “Creative Europe”. Isn’t it necessary for Swiss cinema to cooperate with neighboring countries?

This is not the first time that Switzerland has questioned the introduction of a European standard, we too are making our voices heard. In fiscal terms, Switzerland is generally more liberal than its neighboring countries.

Deputy ecologist and general secretary of the French-speaking consumer federation Sophie Michaud Gigon supports the new film law. In an interview she explains why:

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