Screen Producers Australia has once again chastised the federal government for its proposed reporting system and investment in streaming services, calling the next steps in the media reform program ‘weak’ and ‘lacking vision or plan’ “.
As part of new measures announced in February, Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, outlined a strategy for services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ to report annually to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on their spending on Australian content. If the investment for a service is less than 5%, then the government could impose a formal investment obligation.
Since then, the government has solicited quotes from industry through a work document recalling the key points of the plan.
At the time, SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said the regulatory model was a “missed opportunity” that could see Australia miss out on global investment strategies.
Concerns were also raised among the guilds at the Screen Forever conference in March, where Australian Directors Guild (ADG) executive director Alaric McAusland the industry was currently “far too polite” to the government over the question.
In presenting the SPA’s submission to the document, Deaner doubled down on his criticism, saying the proposal would likely lead to less Australian content on streaming services.
“Overall, we find the current government’s program to be weak and lacking in vision or plan to develop Australia’s screen industry,” he said.
“At a time when Australian audiences want to see more of their local 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 leave highly profitable businesses global streaming companies like Netflix and Disney+ clinched for any significant and consistent ongoing contributions to Australian screen culture.
SPA’s submission makes a fresh call for a 20% Australia-commissioned content spending requirement to be applied to global streaming companies, a proposal it has advocated, along with other sections of the industry, throughout the green paper submission process.
The organization is also pushing for guarantees on the terms of trade between producers and platforms, after publishing research last year in which independent producers reported difficulties negotiating to do business with platforms. commissioning.
SPA’s main concern is the “unsustainable” level of government discretion at different stages of the two-tier regime.
Under this, the Communications Minister would have the power to designate large SVOD services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, as Tier 1 services which would be required to report annually to the ACMA on their spending on Australian content.
“to be determined in the act of designation”, in addition to the reporting requirements.
SPA identifies the “alarming degree” of ministerial discretion as “perhaps the defining feature” of the regime.
“As part of this, Australian content becomes a matter for the uncertain preferences of future ministers, who are subject to intense lobbying efforts by major commercial corporations,” the submission reads.
“Our industry has seen the negative effects of this during the pandemic, without a strong regulatory framework to tie them to important public interest principles.”
While noting a number of critical issues, the SPA welcomed certain elements of the plan in its submission, such as the fact that only new Australian commissions are included in the assessment of local spending, as opposed to acquisitions and renewals of licenses.
It was also encouraged that discoverability was recognized as an important issue in the working document, with a reporting framework set to include a requirement that services demonstrate how they make Australian content accessible to local audiences.
However, Deaner noted that there are still plenty of areas for improvement.
“SPA believes there are compelling reasons for a better regulatory framework for streaming services and in our submission we call for regulatory certainty and a plan to grow the industry – without stalling or worse – by rolling back “, did he declare.
See the full submission here.