Streaming platforms will soon be forced to make more Australian programming under a federal government scheme.
The requirement to invest in local productions will apply to large streaming companies including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Stan, Disney+ and Apple TV+ from July 2024.
Minister for Arts Tony Burke confirmed the scheme as part of a new wide-ranging arts and culture policy called Revive.
The government said in its policy reveal that it will take “necessary action” to safeguard Australian storytelling from being “drowned out” by overseas programming, particularly from the US.
“The government has committed to take the necessary action so that Australians continue to be able to see and hear quality homegrown content, regardless of which platform they are using. It is important that streaming services invest in key genres, including children’s content, scripted drama and documentaries,” the policy document read.
However, it did not reveal the model or the minimum requirement it will apply to the policy, only that there would be another round of industry consultation before implementation.
An industry-led campaign called “Make It Australian”, fronted by the likes of Simon Baker and Justine Clarke, and Screen Producers Australia have been lobbying for a model in which a streaming platform must spend 20 per cent of its local revenue on Australian productions.
SPA chief executive Matthew Deaner said over the weekend 20 per cent was comparable with content quotas in France and Italy.
News reports over the weekend mooted the figure of 20 per cent will be legislated, but was dismissed as “purely speculative” by Minister Burke.
The Australian production industry has long been agitating for content quotas to be applied to streamers, especially international players, but it’s far from a simple thing.
Perhaps that’s why Minister Burke has yet to finalise the details despite years of consultation and lobbying from both sides.
The percentage of revenue model can be complex if applied to platforms such as Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+, whose streaming services are or can be bundled with other services such as free delivery in the case of Amazon or music streaming, news and fitness services in the case of Apple.
Even Disney+ has signed up to partner with OnePass which bundles the cost of Disney streaming subscription with free delivery services for a raft of retail brands.
There are also streaming services such as Stan, Binge* and Paramount+ which are owned by media networks with broadcast TV channels.
Foxtel Group*, which owns Binge, said it does not commission programming specifically for either its streaming or broadcast platforms.
There are content quotas placed on linear TV networks, although some of the obligations to produce drama, children’s and documentary programming were wound back under the previous Morrison Government.
Industry sources have floated that while content quotas are well-intentioned, it could have the undesired effect of pushing up the cost of production as crews and studio space become scarce due to competition, and driving streaming platforms to fall back on cheaper reality programming to fulfil its obligations.
Streaming services have been in battle around the world to stave off legislated content obligations as audiences increasingly shift viewing to on-demand platforms
In 2018, the European Union mandated streaming companies would have to ensure 30 per cent of its catalogue would be European titles.
In Australia, streamers spent $628 million on Australian or Australian-related titles in 2021 to 2022.
The sector has been ramping up its production of local projects in recent years, including Netflix’s Heartbreak High and True Spirit, Amazon Prime Video’s Class of ’07 and Luxe Listings, Disney’s The Artful Dodger and The Clearing, and Paramount+’s More than This and Spreadsheet.
Australian-owned streaming services Binge has commissioned Love Me and Colin From Accounts while Stan’s originals include Bump and Wolf Like Me.
A Foxtel Group spokesperson said it was committed to Australian stories and local production and it would continue to work closely with the government on the consultation process.
Netflix said in a statement in response to the policy announcement, “Netflix’s position is clear: we don’t oppose regulation but do want it to be sustainable, equitable and evidence-based. We look forward to positive consultation with the government on Revive to shape media regulation that creates good outcomes for Australian storytellers and audiences.”
Paramount ANZ said it would consult with the government for an outcome that is “achievable and sustainable for the local screen production sector”.
*Foxtel Group is majority owned by News Corp, publisher of this website
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