Critics of the government’s new quota overhaul highlight the lack of local quotas on streaming platforms, and warn of the loss of Children’s Television on Free to Air commercial broadcasters.
The Australian Writers’ Guild, Screen Producers Australia and the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance are chief amongst those expressing fears from the announcement made yesterday by Communications, Cyber Safety and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher.
Free to Air broadcasters Seven, Nine and 10 plus Foxtel welcomed the changes.
But the lack of local content on streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Stan did not go down well with some. The government ruled only that they would have to report on their local content spending to regulator, ACMA.
Paul Fletcher was quoted in yesterday’s SMH as saying, ‘It’s certainly not a case of ruling out a spend requirement on the streaming video services. We just think more work is required to look at that issue.’
In a statement The Australian Writers’ Guild “questioned why Paul Fletcher has not yet done the work. ”
It further noted Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman reported in The Guardian last week that, ‘It’s time for streaming services, which are enjoying growing and significant revenues from Australians, to stump up and support our own screen sector. They are currently getting a free ride.’
“How the Government has missed the boat on regulating streaming services and requiring set levels of Australian content each year defies belief,” said MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy. “This government seems intent on deregulation rather than creating a playing field that is level for all.
“Streaming services – yielding billions in income each year – will be celebrating that they have again avoided any content rules.”
The new rules dispense with formal sub-quotas for Drama, Documentary and Children’s for commercial broadcasters and allows for a simplified system of 250 points per year -with a maximum of 50 points for Documentary (this should prevent Reality TV from making up all 250 points). This leaves 200 points to be made up from Drama, Children’s, Feature Film how the broadcaster sees fit (other genres Sport, News, Light Entertainment are not eligible for the points).
While a Feature Film will draw 1 point, a big budget drama will draw 7 points. But it could mean networks will be less likely to spend on Children’s TV drama, leaving ABC to fill a very large gap. ABC yesterday was not awarded any funding boost, which went to Screen Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation.
“The effective abolition of children’s content quotas, the watering down of drama and documentary requirements and the halving of requirements for subscription TV doesn’t meet the Government’s articulated desire for forward-thinking policy-making. Instead, it presents as the adoption of the deregulation wish-list of legacy broadcasters and their owners and the international streaming companies,” said Screen Producers CEO Matthew Deaner.
“Additional funding for Screen Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation is welcome, however with no regulation to stimulate commissions, we are concerned as to the effectiveness of this as a measure to meet the needs of Australia’s child audiences as it doesn’t in its own right trigger production and could amount simply to development of projects with no pathway to audiences.”
But Free TV Australia CEO Bridget Fair welcomed the changes.
“By ensuring broadcasters are incentivised to make the programs that are most relevant to their audiences rather than slavishly meeting sub quota obligations, these reforms will assist to maintain the health and sustainability not only of commercial television broadcasters, but of the entire content production ecosystem,” she said.
Changes take effect from 2021.