Argentina Goes Full Monty with Taxpayer-Funded “Netflix”

The Argentinean government aims to further support the heavily subsidized local film industry with a Netflix competitor.
The Argentinean government aims to further support the heavily subsidized local film industry with a Netflix competitor. (Pixell)

EspañolOn June 30, the Argentinean government officially announced the creation of a “national and popular” video-streaming platform similar to Netflix. The service is meant to feature content produced by the country’s floundering local film industry.

The project aims to “promote and stimulate national cinema, as well as the dissemination of domestic and international cinematographic production,” according to the government’s statement.

To manage the online distribution system, the Cristina Kirchner administration has formed the Office of General Coordinator of the Video-On-Demand Platform under the supervision of the National Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (INCAA).

In March, INCAA Director Lucrecia Cardoso and Matías Bianchi, president of Argentina’s state-run telecommunications firm ARSAT, signed the first agreement to design the platform.

“These projects continue the democratic path set by the Law of Audiovisual Communications Service and the policies spearheaded by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, such as Open Digital Television and the Digital Argentina Law, which started adjusting regulations for a world of constantly evolving information and communications technologies,” the state news agency reported in March.

The online service will be available on different devices (computers, tablets, game consoles, and smartphones), but only in Argentina. Viewing content from other countries will depend on future agreements.

The Kirchner administration has assigned Santiago Diehl as general coordinator, who will be in charge of “planning, organizing, supervising, and directing the project that will stream audiovisual content in coordination with ARSAT.”

“Surely the first film on the national and popular Netflix will be the documentary on Néstor Kirchner. How nice.”

The Argentinean government has not yet released the cost of the service, but state news agency Télam reported in March that it would be priced “for the people,” and presumably at a cheaper rate than Netflix’s basic AR$100 subscription (around US$8).

Authorities say the primary reason for the tax-funded project is the need to “create new ways to access content to alleviate some of the difficulties that [local] producers and distributors face when it comes time to find an audience, and to support job creation in the industry, which has been growing year after year alongside national [film] production.”

The government explains in Resolution 1873 that the state must boost the diffusion of national and regional cultural goods among the local population “in order to contribute to the strengthening of the Argentinean people’s diverse and plural identity” and defend “cultural sovereignty.”

Santiago Siri, an Argentinean programmer, politician, and technology expert, told the PanAm Post that “if Kirchnerism has a salient feature, it’s an obsession with propaganda.”

“This [project] is in line with their industrial model, that is, an industry with artificial added value and no capacity to compete with the world, modifying reality as they please.”

“What will they offer on the National and Popular Netflix? The complete seasons of Cristina Kirchner’s TV addresses?”

Subsidies for Films that No One Watch

The INCAA publishes on its website the monthly subsidies assigned to each film production in Argentina as part of Law 17741’s mandate to manage a Fund for Cinematographic Incentives.

In 2014, the Fund provided subsidies for 140 national film productions, including the Oscar nominated Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes). However, a report by Argentinean newspaper La Nación revealed that almost half of the 764 Argentinean movies funded by the INCAA between January 2008 and October 2014 were viewed by less than 10,000 people. Less than 5,000 viewers got to enjoy 253 subsidized films.

The INCAA’s figures demonstrate that the Argentinean state provided AR$6,267,515 (US$464,260) in subsidies to 21 films in the month of May alone.

The Argentinean government funnels billions of Argentinean pesos to keep industries afloat. Every month, it hands over AR$372 million (US$27.7 million) to Aerolíneas Argentinas, and AR$19 million (US$1.41 million) to the national post service. The energy sector receives more tax money than even the country’s social programs, to the tune of AR$4.7 billion every month (US$356.5 million).

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

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