“Just because a project is filmed on location in Australia, with some Australian cast & crew, does not make it an Australian story”

Screen Producers urge the govt to protect Australian storytelling while some streamers stand accused of "muddying the waters."

Streaming platforms have been accused of “muddying the waters” around what is what is genuine Australian content and what is actually International content filmed in Australia.

Screen Producers Australia today fronted a National Cultural Policy Inquiry Hearing to advocate for a 20%  revenue investment obligation by the steaming services on new Australian content.

Their call comes ahead of the Government promise for regulation to commence from 1 July this year -but one which is yet to be tabled in Parliament.

In late 2023 a consultation paper focussed on two “Refined Models”: a revenue-based model with sport expenditure carved out and another as an expenditure-based model with an escalation factor for subscriber numbers.

“Considerable alarm was raised subsequently as neither of these models included any requirement for streaming platforms to invest in Australian documentary, one of the three critical genres identified as a priority in the National Cultural Policy, along with drama and children’s programs,” SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said.

“SPA has noted that since then some streaming platforms have treated this omission of documentary in this consultation as if it was an actual decision of government and have circulated misleading information to Parliamentarians claiming that Australian documentaries such as The Test, The Story of the Wiggles and others would not be counted as Australian content. This misleading information is of concern to SPA.”

Deaner referred to some streaming businesses “promoting misleading information to the Australian Parliament,”  but did not name those concerned.

“We hope that we don’t see more of this in the coming months but expect some of the streamers claims to become increasingly shrill,” he said.

“It is also clear from this publication that some streamers – usually those based internationally – are keen to muddy the waters between what is genuinely Australian content and what is International.

“The critical difference is that just because a project is filmed on location in Australia, with some Australian cast and crew, does not make it an Australian story, either in the eyes of Australian audiences or the regulator, the ACMA.

“It is important here to distinguish between the benefits of economic activity and achieving the aims of the National Cultural Policy for Australian audiences.

“SPA represents members from across the spectrum of the screen industry and includes those who work on both Australian and International location projects so what we are seeking here is an appropriate balance.”

Shows such as Boy Swallows Universe, Heartbreak High and The Clearing demonstrate that authentic Australian stories have been global success stories.

An ACMA report on spending by the five major SVODs shows in 2022-23 spending on “Australian-related” or international screen projects increased in 2022-23 to $452.9m from $333.4m the previous year -around 60% of the overall spend by streamers in Australia.

By contrast, over the same time frame, spending on Australian content by the five major streaming platforms dropped in 2022-23 to $324.1m from $335.1m the previous year.

“It is important for the Committee to note that usually the international streamers will commonly conflate these two figures, to suggest that their spending, whether on Australian stories or international stories filmed in Australia are one and the same thing. That might be the view from overseas, but when you apply the ambitions of the National Cultural Policy, it’s not a view shared here,” Deaner continued.

“That’s what some of the streamers mean when they describe genuinely Australian content, made under Australian creative control as a ‘narrowly defined category of Australian drama’ in the publication tabled earlier. This is part of their current campaign for a loose definition of what is Australian content to continue to claim international projects as filling any future investment obligation applied by the Australian Government.

“In May 2023, the Office of the Arts estimated that a 20% spending obligation on Australian content by the streaming platforms based on their earnings in this market would equal around $341.5 million. Given that streamers are already spending close to this now, that is, $324.1m, a 20% obligation on those metrics would be asking them to spend an additional $17.4 million each year on Australian content.

“We think that’s a reasonable ask.”

8 Responses

  1. What the hell is an Australian story anyway? To me our goal was and should always be International appeal. Not saying you can’t do both. Horror is one genre case in point and is unfortunately one of the least funded by film bodies!

  2. “Shows such as Boy Swallows Universe, Heartbreak High and The Clearing demonstrate that authentic Australian stories have been global success stories.”
    OK, so “authentic Australian stories” are commercially successful. That’s great! But, why then do we need rules, laws or subsidies to force production companies to make such shows? Their executives/shareholders would surely be happy to have “global success stories” that generate nice profits. Am I missing something here?

    1. One of the arguments is that Australian content should not be allowed to include international shows set in America with a few Aussies doing US accents etc. But if we look to the example were FTA was no longer required to produce children’s content it all but evaporated. Seven for instance now produce zero kid’s TV.

      1. Exactly! Seven would produce kids shows if they were a “global success story”. However, they are not commercially viable so TV doesn’t make them. Industry people keep saying (your article and elsewhere) that governments need to support (legislate/fund) Aussie shows because they are global success stories. If they are successful (commercially), they wouldn’t need outside support! They can’t have it both ways.

Leave a Reply