The Australian Government has today released a Green Paper setting out proposed reforms to support the media industry and is seeking public and industry comment.
The paper proposes creating a law that requires Streaming services to invest a percentage of local revenue into local content, either in the form of commissions, co-productions or acquisitions of content (in Europe a similar levy is set at 30%).
The Green Paper also highlights that the business model of Australia’s free-to-air television businesses is under severe strain and proposes a new broadcasting licence structure for networks by using less radiofrequency spectrum.
The Government is seeking views on:
- Offering commercial broadcasters the choice to operate under a new kind of commercial television broadcasting licence, with a reduced regulatory burden provided they agree to move at a future point to using less radiofrequency spectrum;
- Promoting the public interest by using proceeds from freed-up spectrum to invest in Australian news and screen content;
- Introducing an Australian content spend obligation on video-on-demand services; and
- Formalising the role of national broadcasters as key providers of Australian content.
“The media landscape has changed significantly over the past decade, with faster internet allowing digital technologies to generate significant benefits for industry and consumers. However, these technologies have also fractured business models and rendered many of our regulatory structures obsolete,” Minister Fletcher said.
“With declining revenues, rising costs and an outdated regulatory framework, the capacity of Australia’s media sector to provide Australian programming, local content and public interest journalism is being challenged. These structural pressures have been accelerated by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reinforcing the need for regulatory action.”
These proposed reforms are in addition to those announced as part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget to simplify regulations and inject $53 million into the development and production of local film and television content.
“What we are proposing would rebalance Australia’s media regulations so that the industry can continue to support jobs, connect communities, and keep Australian stories on our screens regardless of whether they prefer to watch free-to-air television, subscription television or video-on-demand services,” Minister Fletcher said.
To view the Green Paper, and for more information visit Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications website.
Submissions are due by 7 March 2021.
Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance statement:
MEAA CEO Paul Murphy says as thousands of skilled writers, directors, creatives, technicians, performers and other workers face an uncertain future, the need for the Federal Government to take regulatory action is critical.
“While we need to see more detail within the Government’s green paper, placing a requirement on streaming services to invest a percentage of their Australian revenue in local content gives a devastated local industry much hope for the future.” said Murphy.
“We will be studying the green paper carefully, and consulting our members to prepare a submission in response.
“Getting this reform right will create thousands of jobs and also benefit audiences for generations to come by bringing more uniquely Australian stories to the screen.”
Screen Producers Australia:
SPA CEO Matthew Deaner stated: “After an incredibly hard year for the screen sector which has seen local stories suffer at the hands of content quota suspensions and production shutdowns, this is an exciting and welcome development for Australian audiences, as well as Australian creative workers and independent production businesses.
“Streaming services are now an entrenched part of the Australian entertainment and cultural landscape, deriving huge financial gain from operating here. Now is the time to be taking definitive steps to ensuring they make an appropriate contribution back to Australian audiences.
“Incorporating streaming platforms into the regulatory mix and leveling the regulatory playing field with the free-to-air networks will be crucial to unlocking the growth potential of our industry, delivering more jobs, added exports, extra economic activity and new high quality Australian content for audiences at home and abroad.
“I congratulate the Minister on this announcement. The success of this approach will in large part be determined by the underlying details of the scheme, and we look forward to working with the government on the details of this arrangement in the coming months.”