Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has released its submission to Federal Government’s media reform green paper, outlining steps to address what it perceives to be a “regulatory gap” with regards to streaming platforms.
Its submission proposes a regulatory model in which SVOD and AVOD services with at least 500,000 subscribers or $50 million in annual Australian revenue would be required to spend 20 per cent of that revenue on commissioning new Australian content. Acquisitions would be excluded.
Based on SPA’s analysis, this would see the scheme include Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and Disney+.
SPA has spent years lobbying for streaming platforms to be obligated to produce Australian content, including as part of the Make It Australian campaign, which it spearheaded with the Australian Directors’ Guild (ADG), Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG), Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA).
Its proposals were developed with reference to international precedents, such as France, who has implemented a 20.5-25.5 per cent revenue obligation. Canada is also currently considering how to impose similar requirements.
SPA believes streamers should be obligated to commission into genres (drama, documentary, children’s) based on their non-Australian content of that nature. That is to say, if a service carries children’s content, it should be required to commission local kids programming.
Other sub-requirements include an obligation or incentive to engage with Indigenous production, and minimum requirements to engage with the independent sector (80 per cent of the overall obligation).
According to SPA, the updated framework would deliver an “immediate injection” of more than $360 million in Australian content investment, while creating 10,000 jobs and more than 300 hours of Australian content for audiences on the platforms.
SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said the proposal would “safeguard” the future of Australian content on streaming platforms and was proportionate to the popularity and financial success of the services.
“These platforms are bringing in almost $2 billion in revenue from operating in Australia, and are immensely popular,” he said.
“Given these platforms are now one of the main ways in which Australians interact with screen content, it is only right that we set long-term protections that will ensure audiences are able to see their own stories, culture, and identity reflected back to them through Australian screen content.”
SPA is “strongly opposed” to the government’s proposal that obligations not apply to platforms held by companies that already have a broadcasting or subscription licence, such as Nine’s Stan, Foxtel’s Binge or ViacomCBS’ Paramount+. It argues that would “detract from the overall guiding policy principles informing the government’s proposed regulatory intervention”.
Of the other key measures within the green paper, SPA supports obligations for the ABC and SBS to commission new Australian content, as well as the establishment of the Create Australian Screen Trust (CAST), which it says recognises the importance of funding vulnerable forms of content.
But Deaner said the most pressing issue remained the implementation of content requirements on the streaming platforms.
“The government has already taken away much of the Australian content regulation applying to commercial free-to-air television based on changes in technology and audience behaviour,” he said.
“It is vital that they finish the job of transitioning regulation to the increasingly dominant streaming platforms, to ensure Australians don’t miss out seeing the great Australian content we know they love.
“We are calling on the government to act quickly to address the regulatory gap on streaming platforms, and to introduce the new quota by 1 January 2022.”
Consultation for the green paper ended on Sunday, having been extended from March 7.
View SPA’s full proposal here.