Yesterday the federal government made its response to the findings of the ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry, much of which is directed at big players such as Google, Netflix, Amazon & Facebook etc.
In the response the Government commits to:
- establishing a special unit in the ACCC to monitor and report on the state of competition and consumer protection in digital platform markets, take enforcement action as necessary, and undertake inquiries as directed by the Treasurer, starting with the supply of online advertising and ad-tech services
- addressing bargaining power concerns between digital platforms and media businesses by tasking the ACCC to facilitate the development of a voluntary code of conduct
- commencing a staged process to reform media regulation towards an end state of a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers
- ensuring privacy settings empower consumers, protect their data and best serve the Australian economy by building on our commitment to increase penalties and introduce a binding online privacy code
- announced in the 2019–20 Budget, through further strengthening of Privacy Act protections, subject to consultation and design of specific measures as well as conducting a review of the Privacy Act.
Commencing in 2020 the Government will focus on:
- developing a uniform classification framework across all media platforms;
- the extent of Australian content obligations on free-to-air television broadcasters (including drama and children’s content), and whether there should be Australian content obligations on subscription video-on-demand services; and
- other aspects of the policy framework to support Australian film and television content.
This will be facilitated by an options paper co-authored by Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
The response was well-received yesterday.
Screen Producers Australia:
Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner said:
“We look forward to working constructively with the Government and other stakeholders to develop a platform neutral media regulatory framework that ensures all Australians have access to quality Australian screen content.
“One of the clear themes of the Report is the lack of data transparency when it comes to digital platforms. This will be a major challenge in designing a framework that is fit for purpose. For example, a recent study by RMIT academics has estimated that 9% of content on Stan and 1.7% of content on Netflix is Australian. But this information is not provided by the SVOD services themselves, or indeed by any streaming services. Without key data, it will be difficult to come up with an effective regulatory regime.
“We are currently witnessing a global content boom. Australia cannot afford to sit back and let this pass us by. We need regulatory reform to take advantage of this opportunity and to ensure the sustainability of the Australian screen industry.
“Reform of Australia’s media regulatory framework is already long overdue. We hope that the departmental restructure due to come into effect on 1 February 2020 will not delay progress on these important reforms.”
Free TV Australia:
Free TV Chief Executive Officer, Bridget Fair, said: “Australia’s media regulations are crying out for urgent modernisation. The roadmap today outlined by the Government sets a clear timetable for that to occur.
“It is pleasing that the Government has recognised that action is needed to address critical imbalances in the regulatory framework and the competitive position of Australian media companies.
“For far too long, Free TV broadcasters have been operating under a regulatory framework developed last century, while trying to compete against unregulated digital platforms for advertising revenue and audience attention.
“We look forward to engaging with the process outlined by the Government in early 2020 to quickly reform the ageing Australian content framework. Free TV is proudly the home of great local content and spent $1.63 billion on Australian programming in FY19. Australians know they can turn to Free TV services for their entertainment, drama, local news and live sport.
“It is hard to overstate the pressing need for action in this area to allow commercial television broadcasters to focus on delivering the content our audiences want to watch rather than servicing outdated quota obligations. This is particularly the case for children’s content, where audience demands and behaviour have changed dramatically.
“Our investment in great local content will also be better supported by the proposed voluntary commercial bargaining Code of Conduct between digital platforms and media businesses. Our members are committed to working with the digital platforms and the ACCC in putting these codes in place by November 2020. Importantly, the Government has reserved the right to create a mandatory code should agreement not be reached with the digital platforms.
“We congratulate the ACCC for a comprehensive 2-year review process that led to the recommendations that the Government has today accepted. With urgent action to implement the roadmap, the Morrison Government can lead the world in recognising that the rising power of the digital platforms cannot be left unchecked.”
Network 10’s chief executive officer Paul Anderson said:
“It’s great the Government is making a serious attempt to address the deep-rooted dominance of the online tech and streaming giants.
“On Free to Air content regulation, the issues are clear and the answers are already there. We just have to get cracking and get it done.”
James Warburton, Seven West Media Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer said: “We welcome today’s response from the Government to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report, supports the majority of the ACCC’s recommendations.
“Seven is particularly pleased by the announced process to swiftly address out of date Australian content requirements that are currently holding back Australian media businesses. We encourage the Government to move quickly to provide certainty to industry and put in place a new framework for content that better reflects commercial realities and the changed viewing patterns of Australian audiences.
“The urgent need for regulatory equality between foreign Digital Platforms and Australian companies has been recognised by the Government. We see this as a real turning point, as for too long legislation has lagged well behind technological evolution, disadvantaging Australian companies and providing foreign Digital Platforms with a free ride.
“We are disappointed that the Government is not pursuing a mandatory take down scheme for copyright infringing material as recommended by the ACCC. But it is pleasing that the Government has committed to reviewing copyright enforcement mechanisms during 2020.
“We look forward to working with the Government as this process moves forward, to ensure a regulatory environment that is appropriate in the digital age, to better protects consumers and provide a more level playing field for Australian businesses.”
Nine CEO Hugh Marks said, “This is a much needed and timely announcement from the Government in response to the recommendations that had been made by the ACCC as part of their digital platforms inquiry. It provides a clear timeline and platform for our industry to be able to engage with the social media platforms on a basis we ultimately believe will be a win win not only for our industry and the people that work in it, but the social platforms as well. We congratulate the Prime Minister, Minister Fletcher and the Government on its bold statement and look forward to the next steps in achieving recognition of the value that our content and our journalism means to the social platforms and their audiences.”