Netflix has introduced mobile previews on the app. Photo: Facebook

CAPE TOWN - The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has begun public hearings into regulating TV subscription services in South Africa, reports Business Tech. 

This has brought much attention to internet streaming, in particular, Netflix. According to head of Social Media Law at Shepstone Wylie, Verlie Oosthuizen, Multichoice did not have much competition, before the entry of streaming services like Netflix. 

Oosthuizen also reportedly raised concerns about the fact that streaming services are not regulated in the same way that subscription TV services are. 

This is because these streaming services do not fall within the authority of Icasa or the Film and Publications Board (FPB). 

Regulations and consequences

Currently, it is not considered an illegal act to watch streaming content online. However, it should be done in a manner that is not fraudulent or where the content is pirated. 

Individuals who stream online content should also not disguise their IP address but they are able to use virtual private networks (VPNs) and not be criminally charged. 

Individuals who download pirated content also cannot be criminally liable. However, they may be accountable for damages that the copyright owner experiences. 

Notably, by uploading pirated material, individuals can be held criminally liable. 

In other streaming news, Icasa on Saturday said that it has yet to be convinced that streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon are the reason behind MultiChoice’s massive loss in business.

MultiChoice, which operates DStv, claims it lost over 100 000 DStv Premium subscribers in its last financial year from the “unregulated” competition it faces face from “over-the-top” (OTT) internet streaming services like Netflix.

This was revealed on Friday by MultiChoice SA’s chief executive Calvo Mawela who presented his argument to Icasa’s panel on the final day of the communications regulator’s public hearings.

Icasa’s public hearings, held from Monday, were an inquiry into subscription TV broadcasting services.

Icasa is looking to address MultiChoice’s “market dominance” by further regulating the firm. 

However, MultiChoice has argued that if Icasa proceeds with more regulations, it will kill DStv’s business and hand the South African market to the online streaming giants.

According to MultiChoice, Netflix and other international streaming companies “do not pay tax” in South Africa and also don’t contribute levies to organisations such as the Media Development and Diversity Agency or Universal Service and Access Agency of SA, nor do they pay broadcasting licence fees.

MultiChoice argued to Icasa’s council that it must not go overboard with regulations, and that whatever it implements should apply to the whole pay-TV sector - including services like Netflix.

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE