Screen Producers Australia has called on the Federal Government to ensure foreign subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services contribute their “fair share” to the Australian production industry by commissioning local content.
In a statement, SPA CEO Matthew Deaner called for SVOD services to contribute “to the communities whose public infrastructure they rely on and from whom they derive their super-profits."
"The time has come for SVOD services give back to the Australian community and tell Australian stories."
According to recent Roy Morgan research, Netflix reaches almost 5 million Australians or some 1.8 million subscribers. In October, the service was announced as a co-producer on the second season of Glitch alongside the ABC and Matchbox Pictures – the closest thing yet to an Aussie Netflix Original.
Amazon Prime is also expected to officially launch in Australia soon. In November, the service gave Australian users access via its US and UK websites.
Deaner urged that the market would not solve the issue of local content on its own.
"In Australia, broadcasters have responsibilities not just to pay tax but to contribute to Australian stories for adults and children alike.These stories shape and strengthen our Australian identity and narrative. This contribution is important given their role in our community and access to public spectrum, audience and a continuing privileged competitive environment. Broadcasters are asked to pay their fair share. SVOD services, who are increasingly relying on other forms of public infrastructure such as the NBN, must contribute too."
Last week, Arts and Communication Minister Mitch Fifield announced a “self-regulatory tool” that would enable Netflix to classify its programs for Australian audiences. The rationale is that this will allow programs to be available to Australian audiences faster.
"SVOD services don’t get to have their cake and eat it too," said Deaner. "You can’t ask to be treated like a broadcaster in one area – content classification – but then turn a blind eye to the other elements of the regulatory environment, such as contributions to the production and distribution of Australian content."
In response to Deaner’s comments, a spokesperson for Minister Fifield told the Australian Financial Review that "the government is committed to fostering a strong and vibrant Australian screen industry and has a range of policies in place to assist. The government does not have plans to increase regulation on the screen industry."