Streaming services to have Australian content quotas under proposed new reforms

A requirement to reinvest a percentage of Australian content revenue back into Australian content was also proposed

Streaming services in Australia could be forced to spend millions on local film and TV under major proposed reforms to media laws by the Federal Government.

Currently, platforms like Netflix have no obligation to create Australian content, while commercial free-to-air television licensees must broadcast 55 per cent Australian programming between 6am and midnight. Stan, an Australian streaming service company owned by Nine (which already owns a TV license) is already subject to a content quota.

Streaming services would also be required to reinvest a percentage of any revenue made on Australian content to be reinvested into local film and TV – in the form of commissioning, co-commissioning or purchasing existing Australian content.

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The proposals arrive as part of a Media Green Paper, launched by the Federal Arts Minister Paul Fletcher yesterday (November 27). The percentage required to be reinvested and the minimum investment in local content has yet to be determined, with public submissions made until March 7 next year.

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, streaming giants Netflix, Stan, Prime Video and Disney Plus made a submission to the government earlier this year opposing the need for a local content quota, saying “we strongly believe that there is no market failure to address…[each of us] already makes a significant contribution to Australia’s screen production industry”.

“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,” Mr Fletcher said in a press release.

“With declining revenues, rising costs and an outdated regulatory framework, the capacity of Australia’s media sector to provide Australian programming, local content and public interest journalism is being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.”

The proposed rules were welcomed by both the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA Union), and Screen Producers CEO Matthew Deaner, with the former noting that they still “need to see more detail within the Government’s green paper”.

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“We will be studying the green paper carefully, and consulting our members to prepare a submission in response,” they said in a statement.

Deaner added that he believed “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”.

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