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Screen Producers Australia is disappointed with plans by the Morrison Government for a Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme:

‘The proposed Scheme will require large SVOD services to report annually on their expenditure on, and provision of, Australian content, and the steps they are taking to make Australian content prominent and discoverable on their services. Where these services fail to invest 5% of their gross Australian revenue on Australian content, the Scheme will enable the Minister for Communications to impose a formal investment requirement on these services.’

In their submission to the Scheme’s Discussion Paper, SPA outlines a number of critical issues for the Australian screen industry -including their desire for 20% reinvested in Australian production.

“Overall, we find the current Government’s Scheme to be weak and lacking in a vision or plan to grow the Australian screen sector. Most important of all, it will likely lead to less Australian content on our streaming services, not more. This is an alarming prospect,” SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said.

“Industry is also concerned at the high levels of Ministerial discretion featured in the two-tier Scheme. We see this as a recipe for uncertainty and inconsistency in a sector characterised by high levels of financial and creative risk and political influence by media oligarchs.

“At a time when Australian audiences are wanting to see more of their homegrown stories on screen, it is inexplicable that the current Government has not only overseen a loss of Australian content on free-to-air platforms but is also proposing to let highly profitable global streaming businesses like Netflix and Disney+ off the hook for any meaningful and consistent ongoing contribution to Australian screen culture.

“These businesses enjoy around $2 billion in annual revenue with forecasts for strong growth in Australia – and have the benefit of delivering their products on the public National Broadband Network infrastructure.

“In choosing not to seek a fair return from them for Australian audiences, this proposal risks the fifty years of public support, government investment and sector development in Australian screen stories that have fostered our world-class creative talent and technical skills.

“Australia faces unique challenges in competing with other English-speaking countries like the USA and UK in the global marketplace for investment and commissioned content. Without safeguards for Australian stories, we face being overwhelmed with lower-cost foreign content or increasingly becoming a backlot for Hollywood.

“The policy rationale for investment safeguards is well established and compelling, particularly for vulnerable genres including children’s, drama and First Nations content. A weak regulatory scheme will likely see streaming services delivering cookie-cutter programming and not the broad range of quality, diverse stories that meet audience expectations.

“The Government’s Scheme also fails to address the significant issues facing SME production businesses in bargaining with massive international oligopoly businesses who are increasingly ‘strip mining’ Australian intellectual property in the process of contracting with local businesses and creatives.

“The urgent need for regulation of streaming services has been on the federal government agenda since the 2011 Convergence Review and this issue has been subject to review after review since then, all with the same finding that streaming services should be regulated – most recently at a level of 20% reinvestment of revenues into the Australian industry.

“To end up with a weak proposal now is a letdown for the industry.”

20% is also a figure the Australian Writers’ Guild has backed to balance the loss of production since Minister Fletcher relaxed drama, documentary and children’s sub-quotas in 2020 for Seven, Nine and 10.

“While international stories driven by overseas creatives and foreign intellectual property have been most recently finding a home in a relatively COVID safe Australia, during this same period there have been increasing challenges in creating consistent levels of Australian content,” Deaner said.

“SPA believes there are compelling reasons for a better regulatory framework for streaming services and in our submission, we are calling for regulatory certainty and a plan for industry growth – not treading water or even worse – going backwards.”

Source: tvtonight.com.au

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