Could Hulu and Netflix pay franchise fees?

by Dave Garb, Legislative Committee Chair

To continue our discussion into the possibility of having OTT providers such as Hulu and Netflix pay franchise fees in exchange for their use of the public rights-of-way, along comes a couple of stories from Reuters news about this very issue.

However, bear in mind that these are not local accounts but from across the seas.  The first takes place from the country of Denmark.

“Lawmakers there have agreed global TV streaming services such as Netflix and Disney must pay a levy of 6% of their revenue in the country to support local TV production.  The bill comes as governments across Europe try to secure support for local TV and film production following the rapid rise in the popularity of streaming services”.  The Ministry of Culture said in a statement: “Denmark must go as far as possible in providing good public service to children and young people, which can serve as a real alternative to the tech giants’ platforms and foreign content.  The fragmented media landscape following the entry of global streaming services “can challenge the cohesion and democratic dialogue in our country.”  **Reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Mark Potter**.

The second article comes from Switzerland.  “Swiss voters backed proposals to make global TV streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney invest some of their revenues generated in Switzerland into domestic film-making.

Just over 58% of voters backed the proposal, according to the final result, in one of three national votes held under the Swiss system of direct democracy.  Switzerland will become the latest European country to introduce such measures to support local TV and film production and boost locally-produced content.

“This result underlines the cultural importance of film-making in Switzerland,” Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset told a press conference on Sunday.

In the binding referendum on what is being called “Lex Netflix”, international streaming services must invest 4% of the revenue they make in Switzerland in local film production.  The investments can take the form of buying locally-made shows, making programmes themselves or go into an investment fund.”**Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Gareth Jones, David Evans and Emelia Sithole-Matarise**

Portugal has also passed a similar law where streaming service providers have to pay 1% of their income and Spain is due to introduce their own law in the very near future.

Hopefully these recent actions abroad will get the attention here in the states —  especially among the 12 states that have litigation currently pending on this issue, or for those states thinking about   filing their own lawsuits.

On a different subject relayed to me by Mike Wassenaar, President of the Alliance for Community Media, “The League of Women Voters at their national convention in late June authorized their chapters to support the Protecting Community Television Act.

The ACM is asking that PEG organizations that have a relationship with a League Chapter (either local or state), reach out to the chapter and request that they send a letter to the Congressional delegation suggesting that the Act is fully endorsed. What this now means to JAG is that we have a new avenue to pursue to make sure this important act for the PEG community is supported by all of New Jersey’s United States Senators and Representatives.