“Anything less than this will be rejected”: Industry unites in call for Streaming standard

Producers, directors, writers, actors outline the fine detail for local content minimums by Streaming platforms.

Industry unions, guilds and associations representing creatives from across the screen industry have met to discuss their response to the Australian Government’s Refined Regulatory Models for the regulation of streaming services.

Accordingly they release the following Principles:

  • It is important that any model of streaming regulation achieves the policy goals and expectations of the National Cultural Policy Revive and delivers more genuinely Australian stories of cultural worth on our screens.
  • Revive sets out the Australian Government’s commitment for streaming services to invest in key genres, including children’s content, scripted drama and documentaries and any streaming regulation legislation is expected to give effect to it.
  • Revive’s promise of ‘a place for every story, a story for every place’ requires support for diverse and inclusive content, including from First Nations storytellers in order to meet the goal of all Australians having a voice in our national narrative as well as growing new audiences.
  • The Australian screen industry has been waiting for nearly ten years for the Australian Government to regulate digital streaming platforms for the benefit of Australian audiences. Regulation must ensure that, like other platforms, streaming services fulfil their mutual obligation to invest in minimum levels of Australian content now and in the future. Getting the details right in any legislation is, therefore, of critical importance.

As the representatives of over 26,000 members working across the sector, the Australian screen industry is unanimous in its call for the following:

  • A minimum 20% of revenue investment obligation by the steaming services or a certain and legislated pathway that will reach this goal within three years. We need a robust, transparent and incorruptible regulatory model that all Australians can have confidence in and that will take our industry forward, meet the promise to audiences of Revive, and demonstrate an ambition to grow the Australian screen industry as an important future industry for our economy in a screen content-hungry world. It is unacceptable to the screen industry for any detail of this to be left to the regulator to deal with at an uncertain future date. We need legislative certainty now. The inclusion of sports expenditure to discount a revenue model is not acceptable. Sports rights already attract high levels of expenditure, audiences, government support and business monetisation in the market and only serve to undermine the policy goals for streaming regulation. Sports expenditure should have absolutely no place in a policy framework to deliver on Australia’s National Cultural Policy. The alternate proposed expenditure models have low integrity and accountability and can very easily be manipulated by digital streaming platforms and are therefore rejected outright by us. Similarly, allowing a streaming platform to acquit any part of its investment obligation from ‘in-house’ production weakens regulation and incentivises internal cost manipulation.
  • Revive’s promise of ‘a place for every story, a story for every place’ needs to be realised. Investment is needed to support First Nations storytellers and also support diversity / inclusion outcomes to ensure that the policies can be delivered to all Australian audiences and that all communities have access to creative work in the screen industry.
  • A strong definition of ‘Australian content’, that will deliver screen stories of Australian cultural value. We need a better balance between foreign projects that use Australia as a low-cost location and valuable Australian stories that are driven by Australian creative workers to ensure that public investment results in public value.
  • Ownership of intellectual property in Australian creativity must be secured for Australians and treated as a valuable national asset to be retained by us. The Australian Government must take action to stop the abuse of market power by powerful digital streaming platforms that are intimidating creatives into surrendering these rights, including for projects that receive generous public funding through screen incentives. Licensing rights to the creative work must revert back to Australian creatives to count as part of this investment obligation. Similarly, platforms should adhere to industry terms of trade that will ensure screen businesses, workers and suppliers are dealt with in a fair and sustainable manner.
  • The industry supports a threshold of $50 million in revenue or 500,000 subscribers for a service to trigger regulation obligations. This would capture all commercially viable streaming services. The current proposal is far higher than standards around the world, and the proposed exclusion of “thematic” or “niche” services would only create unnecessary complications.
  • Minimum levels of investment by streamers in scripted drama, documentary, and kids’ content should be legislated as part of their investment obligation. We reject any so-called ‘multipliers’ that will dilute overall investment in vulnerable genres and undermines the intent of what is to be achieved from regulation. This will still allow plenty of flexibility for streaming platforms to invest in any content of their choosing while ensuring that vulnerable genres are part of their commissioning plans.
  • The investment obligation must focus on new commissions and not acquisitions. The purpose of the regulation is to generate new skilled jobs and new content, not to create a secondary trading market where companies sell their libraries to each other. An acquisition of a program for more than three years should not be included in any investment or expenditure calculation.
  • The Australian screen industry should retain its independent character that currently ensures the diversity of screen stories and supports our unique character and creativity. This can be done by ensuring the majority of regulated commissioning is done as an arms-length transaction by minimising in-house commissioning by streaming services that obscures accountability and Australian industry sovereignty.

Anything less than this will be rejected by the Australian screen industry, represented by the signatories below, and should be rejected by the Australian Parliament, they claimed.

Screen Producers Australia
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance
Australian Directors Guild
Australian Cinematographers Society
Australian Location Managers Guild
Australian Guild Of Screen Composers
Australian Screen Sound Guild
Australian Screen Editors


6 Responses

  1. “A strong definition of ‘Australian content’, that will deliver screen stories of Australian cultural value.”

    I agree that the streamers should be held to make sure their spending is telling actual Aussie stories, but the FTA broadcasters should be held to this same account and standard. MAFS and The Block are not “screen stories of Australian cultural value”. And with how little drama the three commercial networks are bringing us next year, they should absolutely be held to a similar standard – 20% of their revenue should be spent on drama as well.

    1. FTA has a local content requirement, and it is limited in what can be claimed as documentary / reality, meaning they must make minimums in Adult and/or Children’s Drama. Streaming has neither of these.

  2. What independent character.? Most TV and films are produced with foreign capital (we rely on foreign capital for everything) by contracted production companies that owned or controlled by global media empires. What Australian character in the 1970s and 80s our industry boomed based on taking advantage of devolving technology to tell Australian stories. Historical drama, rural dramas, inner city dramas were all popular. What Drama and Comdies we make now are for a global market. It is made for high income workers in the service industry, by high income workers in a service industry. And where it is made depends upon where workers are paid least, and how much taxpayer money producers they get in subsidies. They threatened to quit Sydney when Minns took $66m away from them. If they reject the law, are they going to quit doing this?

  3. “Sports rights already attract high levels of expenditure, audiences, government support and business monetisation”.
    Media companies fork out billions for sporting rights (think cricket, AFL, NRL, tennis, boxing, F1, soccer) because audiences watch in huge numbers. Streaming companies would increase their Aussie content if local audiences wanted to watch – mostly they don’t.
    It could be the agenda from industry unions, guilds and associations might be more self serving than giving the Australian public what they want.

    1. Your points are much the same as my observations Roger, the movie and TV industry should abstain itself from thoughts of political aggrandizement and just get back to the commercial basics of producing broad-based entertainment that will actually attract a paying audience and not lose them. Franchise Sports is arguably indispensable to TV broadcast companies making advertising profits, I’m not sure where FTA TV in Australia would be without sport.

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