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Australia joins international call for local content quotas on streaming TV platforms | Australian television

Australian arts in focus

Statement from peak bodies argues independence and viability of global screen industry under threat unless mandatory quotas for non-US content introduced

Wed 17 Jan 2024 09.00 EST

Australia has joined an international campaign calling on governments to provide better protection for local screen industries in a market dominated by global streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) issued a joint statement with counterparts in Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand and Canada, demanding regulation to force streaming services to make content that is relevant to local markets where they operate.

The international campaign argues that the independence and viability of the global screen industry will remain under threat unless mandatory quotas for local content are introduced in countries outside the US.

In the statement, the production companies and peak bodies say governments have a responsibility to address the issues in the market and that digital platforms have a cultural responsibility to make “fair and proportional contributions” to the creation of local content in markets where they generate revenue.

Netflix, Disney and HBO, whose content is streamed by Binge, dominated the Emmys earlier this week, with Beef (Netflix), The Bear (Disney) and Succession (HBO) among the big winners.

The Guardian requested comment from Netflix and Disney.

The Australian government has promised to introduce a quota system for streaming services by mid-2024.

The local screen industry is pushing for a 20% local content quota but streaming platforms are individually lobbying the government for as little as 2%.

Matthew Deaner, the chief executive of the SPA, said the industry expected quota regulations to commence on 1 July but the percentage was still unknown.

A final round of industry consultation with the arts minister, Tony Burke, and the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, took place in November.

Deaner said legislation was vital to ensure streamers invested a portion of their Australian revenue into making Australian stories.

“Our members have been telling us for some time that without intervention their financial viability and future existence cannot be taken for granted,” he said in a statement.

“Screen producers are increasingly unable to do business deals on fair terms with powerful digital platforms and therefore cannot solve this problem on their own.”

A spokesperson for Burke said the quota scheme was on track to commence on 1 July but would not say what the quota will be.

In a statement in early 2023, when Burke announced the plans for local content quotas as part of the government’s national cultural policy, Netflix said it did not oppose regulation but it had to be “sustainable, equitable and evidence-based”.

Disney+ has previously argued that it would be hit harder than Netflix by a local quota because the latter is already a significant acquirer of Australian content so may already be reaching the percentage that will be decided.

The joint statement also calls for the greater protection of screen intellectual property for local content to protect countries’ unique cultural heritage when it comes to film and television.

“It’s important that the screen IP created by Australians stays in the hands of Australian businesses and is not lost to mostly global streaming platforms.”

Under current regulations, free-to-air commercial television stations are compelled to broadcast 55% local Australian content between 6am and midnight on their primary channel.

No restrictions apply to streaming platforms.

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