Broadcast Regulation

South Africa: Why Streaming Services Like Netflix Can't Be Regulated - ICASA

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has said that over-the-top services like Netflix are not regulated like their subscription TV counterparts because these streaming services do not fall within the authority of ICASA or the Film and Publications Board (FPB).

This fact was revealed at ICASA's public hearings into regulating TV subscription services in South Africa which held from Monday to Friday.

According to the head of Social Media Law at Shepstone Wylie, Verlie Oosthuizen, Multichoice did not have competition, before the entry of OTT services like Netflix and Amazon.

According to Oosthuizen: "Currently, it is not illegal to view streaming content via the internet. However, consuming online contents should not be done in a fraudulent or to aid piracy. Viewers who stream online content should also not disguise their IP address but can use virtual private networks (VPNs) and not be charged criminally.

Oosthuizen said individuals who download pirated content also cannot be criminally liable but may be accountable for damages should the copyright owner report any.

It should be noted that any individual who uploads pirated material, can be held criminally liable.

South Africa's media regulatory body has made it clear that it is not convinced that streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon are the reason behind MultiChoice’s massive loss in business as it claims.

The DSTV operator, claimed last week that it lost over 100 000 DStv Premium subscribers in its last financial year from what it calls the “unregulated” competition it faces from streaming services.

The focus of these hearings is for ICASA is to address MultiChoice’s “market dominance” through further regulations.

However, MultiChoice did argue that should Icasa proceed with the said regulations, it would push DStv’s business over a cliff and put the South African market to the OTT service giants.

MultiChoice said Netflix and other foreign streaming brands do not pay taxes in South Africa neither do they contribute levies to organisations nor pay broadcasting licence fees.

MultiChoice warned the council not go overboard with regulations but asked that whatever it implements should apply to the whole pay-TV sector - including services like Netflix.

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