EXCLUSIVE: FPB asks Netflix to pay R795k licensing fee

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(iStock)
(iStock)

Johannesburg - Netflix is nearing an agreement with SA’s classification body that could see the internet video service paying a R795 000 licensing fee to stay operational in the country.

This is according to the chief operating officer of South Africa’s Film and Publication Board (FPB), Sipho Risiba, who has responded to Fin24’s questions about Netflix’s alleged non-compliance with local regulation.

The FPB classifies all film material distributed in South Africa.

Last month, Risiba visited Kenya and he was quoted by website Standard Digital as saying that South Africa's FPB had given Netflix a two-week ultimatum to comply with local regulations regarding classifications.

Risiba confirmed to Fin24 that details regarding the two-week ultimatum in the Standard Digital report are correct.

But he said that Netflix and the FPB are now near to sealing to an agreement.

“Please be advised that the FPB Legal team and Netflix legal team are currently engaging and the conclusion of an online distribution agreement is imminent,” Risiba told Fin24 by email.

Fin24 has previously contacted Netflix about the issue but the streaming service declined to comment.

Netflix launched in an additional 130 countries, including South Africa, in January this year.

R795k licensing agreement

The online distribution agreement that Netflix is expected to sign is the same as that signed by other online distributors such as Google and iTunes in South Africa, Risiba told Fin24.

The FPB, though, has introduced a co-regulatory system for online distributors of films and games that already have a rating system in place, Risiba explained.

This system allows online distributors such as Netflix to “self-classify using the FPB classification guidelines after training is offered to the online distributor's content raters of films and games or classifier”.

Kenya’s Standard Digital reported that Risiba said that Netflix has been “given an option to have their staff trained by South Africa on the country's standards so that the provider has the internal capacity to comply with those standards before being vetted by the country”.

Risiba explained to Fin24 that the FPB asks online distributors to pay a licensing fee of R795 000 with regard to this self-classification system.

Currently, Netflix does self-classify its content offering for its users across the globe.

What are your thoughts on Netflix being prompted to pay this R795k fee? Tell us your views by clicking here.

Legal requirements

Risiba, in his answers to Fin24’s questions, explained that section 18 read with section 24A of the Films and Publications Act requires all distributors of films, games and certain publication in the country to register with the Board as distributor or exhibitor.

The law also requires distributors to have “any film or game, that has not been classified, exempted or approved in terms of the Films and Publications Act, classified in terms of the FPB Classification guidelines”.

“Failure to comply constitutes a criminal offence,” Risiba told Fin24.

“An external law firm has been instructed by the FPB to engage Netflix with a view to institute court proceedings in the event of continued non-compliance by Netflix.

“Accordingly, like all other online content distributors, Netflix has to comply with the Act or face the consequences,” Risiba said.

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