Netflix, Apple could face Aussie TV quotas

 

TV streaming giants including Netflix, Apple, Disney and Amazon would be forced to pour money into Australian shows and movies under a proposal from the Federal Government to be released today.

The "green paper" into Australian TV industry reform would also offer a one-off, multimillion-dollar discount on TV licences for free-to-air channels, new investments in TV news broadcasts, and propose changes to public broadcasters to enshrine how much Australian content they must screen.

Federal Communications Minister Paul Fletcher will launch the TV reform proposals today, and seek submissions on the changes by March 7 next year.

Streaming services could be asked to invest more funds in Aussie drama, such as Wentworth, under proposed reforms. Picture: Supplied
Streaming services could be asked to invest more funds in Aussie drama, such as Wentworth, under proposed reforms. Picture: Supplied

Mr Fletcher said the reforms were designed to update regulations designed 30 years ago, and at a time when free-to-air TV providers were "under grave and increasing financial pressure" while new internet-streaming services were "increasingly profitable" but not required to meet the same standards.

"If we do nothing, revenue for free-to-air television broadcasters will continue to decline and there is a risk that some providers may collapse," he said.

The proposals include an offer to remove the cost of TV licences for free-to-air channels of between $9.5 and $12 million a year if they agree to use less radiofrequency spectrum, greater investment in Australian news content with savings made from the change, formalising the amount of Australian content to be played on the ABC and SBS, and introducing Australian content quotas on streaming video services that exceed a certain revenue.

Mr Fletcher told News Corp proposed requirements for streaming services could level the playing field for media providers, and were part of "a cultural policy objective that we want Australians who are watching TV to see some Australian stories".

"That cultural policy objective doesn't just disappear because there are now different technologies available," he said.

ABC’s commitment to producing Australian TV shows, such as Bluey, could be outlined in new reforms. Picture: ABC
ABC’s commitment to producing Australian TV shows, such as Bluey, could be outlined in new reforms. Picture: ABC

More than 16 million Australians subscribed to at least one streaming TV service by the end of June, according to Telsyte; an increase of 32 per cent on 2019.

Currently, 55 per cent of all programs broadcast between 6am and midnight on free-to-air channels must be Australian but Mr Fletcher said the amount of local content each streaming service would need to provide was up for debate.

"It's going to depend on how the numbers play out," he said.

"We're seeking feedback on what should be the percentage of their Australian revenue that has to be spent on Australian content. We suggest that one possible benchmark might be five per cent because that's the level we recently announced that Foxtel will face for drama channels … so that might be a fair basis."

QUT journalism and communication senior lecturer Dr Jason Sternberg welcomed the proposal, saying it could help the Australian screen industry that has historically "punched above its weight because it's been supported by the government".

Dr Sternberg said without help, Australia would not have been able to see stars of the entertainment industry such as Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Baz Luhrmann and Bruce Beresford make a mark internationally.

"The idea of encouraging the world's largest media organisations - we're talking about Netflix, Amazon, the new giants - to contribute and help support an industry which they're capitalising off, that's a positive thing for Australian culture," he said.

"When you look at the profits Netflix are making and how little tax they pay, serious questions are going to be asked and so the Government seems to be making a pre-emptive change."

 

Originally published as Netflix, Apple could face Aussie TV quotas


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