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SWISS REFERENDUM

Lex Netflix: What Switzerland’s streaming referendum could mean for you

When it comes to internationally renowned cinema, Switzerland may not be the first country that immediately springs to mind, but a law being voted on this Sunday seeks to change that by forcing streaming services to invest in local moviemaking.

Lex Netflix: What Switzerland's streaming referendum could mean for you
Netflix has pulled the plug on two Danish productions after local agreement requires more pay, rights for industry creatives. Photo: Pixabay

The so-called “Lex Netflix” referendum looks set to pass by a narrow margin, according to recent opinion polls. Under Switzerland’s famous direct democracy system, voters will decide on an amendment to the Film Production Act adopted by parliament last October.

The change takes into account the dramatic shift in how audiovisual content is consumed, requiring global streaming platforms like Netflix to help finance Swiss film production.

The aim is to boost innovation and help Swiss cinema gain more international traction.

“Swiss cinema has become much more international. This new step will allow it to go even further,” said Swiss director Lionel Baier, whose movie “Continental Drift” has been selected for this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

‘Raise the bar’ 

“It will raise the bar in terms of quality and ambition,” he told AFP, adding it would push Swiss directors to “imagine that the series or film you are making will be seen on platforms the world over”.

In a bid to prop up the costly business of film production, domestic television broadcasters have since 2007 been obliged to invest four percent of their turnover in Swiss film-making.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works 

But until now, global streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney+ and Blue, which rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in Switzerland each year, have not been asked to pitch in.

If approved, the amended law will submit them to the same rule.

The streaming services would be given the choice either to participate directly in Swiss film and series production or pay a substitute levy aimed at financing movie promotion.

Cinema production in Switzerland has in recent years received 105 million Swiss francs ($106 million, 101 million euros) in annual financing on average, according to the culture ministry. 

‘A boost’ 

If Lex Netflix passes, the sector can add an additional 18 million francs to its coffers each year, it said. The platforms will also have to ensure European-made films or series make up at least 30 percent of the content available in Switzerland, as they are already required to do in the European Union.

Right-leaning opponents of the amendment, who forced the issue to a referendum, have slammed that quota, warning that the likes of Spotify and Apple Music could soon be subjected to a similar rule.

They also warn the investment obligation will hike subscription prices.

The culture ministry has rejected that argument, pointing to France, where it says that introducing an obligation to invest up to 25 percent of proceeds had entailed no price increases.

Swiss film library chief Frederic Maire insisted the reform would “give Swiss cinema a boost” thanks to additional funds but also the promise of more distribution of Swiss-produced content.

“This can only be beneficial, because… more production means more interesting works and thus, over time, maybe more prizes and more visibility for Swiss cinema,” he told AFP.

The reform’s defenders say it would make it possible to shoot more movies in Switzerland, which would benefit local economies.

What else is at stake on May 15th?

Sunday, May 15th, sees the latest round of Swiss referenda. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s May referendums?

On a federal level, three questions are up for consideration: Netflix and streaming, organ donation rules and Frontex. More information on these votes are available at the following links. 

READ MORE: What is the ‘Netflix vote’ and how could it change TV in Switzerland?

EXPLAINED: What Switzerland’s ‘organ donation’ vote means for you

Frontex: How Switzerland’s ‘border vote’ on May 15th could impact travel

There are also dozens of referendum questions being asked at a cantonal level all across the country. 

In Zurich, voters will go to the polls to decide on several questions. 

Perhaps the most relevant for Local readers is the referendum on improving the naturalisation process, including making the system uniform across each of the canton’s 162 municipalities. 

Detailed information is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How Zurich wants to make naturalisation easier

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SWISS REFERENDUM

First same-sex couples get married in Switzerland

The first same-sex couples tied the knot in Switzerland on Friday following a referendum that changed the landscape for gay rights in the country.

First same-sex couples get married in Switzerland

 Among the first to get married were Aline, 46, and Laure, 45, who have been together for 21 years and converted their civil union into marriage at the plush Palais Eynard in Geneva.

Beneath a sparkling chandelier in a mirrored salon, and with a dozen or so close friends and family in attendance, the couple exchanged touching words recalling their years together and love for each other.

Holding hands throughout the ceremony, they signed the official documents, followed by their witnesses.

“I am now very pleased to announce that you are officially married,” said the Mayor of Geneva, Marie Barbey-Chappuis, who conducted the first ceremony in person.

READ MORE: ‘Deviance and morality’: The history of the same-sex marriage movement in Switzerland

The room burst into applause as the couple exchanged a kiss.

“It was very moving. It’s a big moment and sends a very strong message to society — being free to love and be loved,” Barbey-Chappuis told AFP afterwards.

“The symbolism was particularly strong and the emotion too”.

It was high time that marriage became perfectly equal in Switzerland. “It marks a moment in the history of Switzerland and of the institution of marriage.”

Switzerland is one of the last remaining western European nations to adopt same-sex marriages. The Netherlands was the first to make the change in 2001.

The Swiss government’s plans to introduce “marriage for all” were challenged by opponents, who successfully triggered a referendum on the issue that was held last September. But 64.1 percent of voters backed the introduction of same-sex marriage in he wealthy Alpine nation.

Switzerland decriminalised homosexuality in 1942. Before Friday, same-sex  couples could only register a civil partnership. However, that status does not provide the same rights as marriage, including for obtaining citizenship and the joint adoption of children.

READ MORE: Everything that changes in Switzerland in July 2022

Same-sex couples can now marry in civil ceremonies and enjoy the same rights as other married couples.

Same-sex foreign spouses are now eligible to apply for citizenship through a simplified procedure and same-sex couples are now permitted to adopt jointly.

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