Tax on television providers will help moviemakers

Lawmakers want to see more Costa Rican movies, so they are planning to assess a 1 percent tax on television providers and to order an increasing amount of local films to be shown.

The plan, No. 18601, was before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Ciencia y Tecnología y Educación Tuesday. The proposal, if passed would levy a 1 percent tax on the net income of all television subscription providers, be they local stations, cable companies or even satellite firms. Subscription in the law appears to mean something like a cable television contract.

The money would go to an entity, the Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica, which would then hand the money out to local producers and directors. Those who would pay the tax would not be able to deduct the amount from their net income when they pay the annual income tax.

Fernando Contreras, representing REPRETEL, the television firm, told the committee that the proposal lacked fundamentals. He said his firm operates television stations and radio outlets as well as movie houses. Soon it will introduce satellite television, he said.

Contreras questioned the imposition of charges and taxes without a technical foundation.

The proposal would increase over 10 years the amount of Costa Rican movies that would have to be shown in commercial outlets. The first year, the movie houses would have to show 2 percent Costa Rican films. By year 10 and thereafter, the amount would have to be at least 20 percent.

There would be fines for failing to meet the requirements of the law.

The law also seems to cover Internet firms that deliver movies to customers although it is silent on how to enforce this.

The Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica also would share in the 3 percent tax that is now assessed for public events like shows at the Teatro Nacional.

The existing Centro Costarricense de Producción Cinematográfica has been dealing mostly in documentaries in 8 mm and 16 mm formats. Commercial producers use 35 mm.

There already exists an old law specifying the amount of Costa Rican content required on radio and television, but the preface to the bill says that the amount of foreign material is about 99 percent. The preface also cites countries where such guaranteed access for local material already is the law.

The bill has been in the hopper since October.

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