MultiChoice: Netflix, Disney must comply with BEE, pay tax

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

International video streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Britbox must comply with BEE and pay tax in South Africa, MultiChoice Group CEO Calvo Mawela says.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Mawela said the South African market was imbalanced as traditional broadcasters were subject to more regulations than streaming services.

“[Video streaming players] have to comply with laws like any company operating in SA,” stated Mawela.

As a starting point, he said they must comply with employment requirements, contribute to local content, and pay local taxes.

This is not the first time MultiChoice has called for increased regulations on global streaming operators in South Africa.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) launched an inquiry into subscription TV services in 2016, indicating that it wanted to intervene in the market due to DStv’s dominance.

In response to the inquiry and calls from the ANC and government to break MultiChoice’s monopoly on premium sports broadcasting, Mawela said Netflix must be subject to the same regulations as DStv.

Icasa published the draft findings of its inquiry in April 2019 after a period of public consultations and engagement with stakeholders.

Although it acknowledged players like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, the regulator said their impact is muted due to South Africa’s poor broadband penetration and the high cost of mobile data.

It recommended several interventions targeting MultiChoice, including shortening exclusive contracts, imposing rights splitting and wholesale-must-offer, opening MultiChoice’s network, and introducing decoder inter-operability.

MultiChoice slated Icasa’s findings.

The regulator allowed stakeholders to give feedback on its draft findings last year.

“We consider providers like Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, HBO Now & Peacock to be an existential competitive threat,” MultiChoice said in its presentation to the regulator.

In May 2022, Icasa announced it was rebooting the inquiry.

“Upon considering the draft findings emanating from the Inquiry — [Icasa] is of the view that further consultation and engagement with stakeholders is required,” said former Icasa chairperson Dr Keabetswe Modimoeng.

“Any regulatory intervention in this market ought to take account of current policy developments, as well as recent technological and market trends.”

However, later that month, an ANC policy document revealed that the ruling party still wanted to crack down on MultiChoice.

The document was released for public discussion ahead of the ANC’s policy conference in July.

If enacted, the policy would prevent national sporting bodies for the Springboks, Proteas, and Bafana Bafana from selling broadcasting rights exclusively.

Instead, the ANC wants the SABC to have the ability to broadcast all these teams’ games live.

To make up for the revenue sports leagues would lose from MultiChoice, the ANC has proposed an alternative funding model.

Its policy document does not give details on how it would work, except to state that the National Treasury should support the SABC.

 

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