Distributive policy

Streaming services stress need for clear regulation in national cultural policy submissions

Amazon and Netflix both welcomed the prospect of consulting the federal government on a formal requirement to invest in their national cultural policy submissions, but called for a “broad and flexible” definition of Australian content.

The Neuf Stan-owned streaming service and Foxtel, owner of Binge, meanwhile pointed out how they should be exempt from any obligations in order to avoid duplicitous regulation.

It comes after screen industry guilds reiterated the need for major streaming platforms to reinvest 20% of their Australian revenue into local commissions, with Screen Producers Australia identifying the policy as the “top priority”. higher” for its members.

As with their response to the media reform green paper last year, Stan, Netflix and Amazon highlighted their contribution to local content, citing data from the Australian Communications and Media Authority showing that over the financial year 2020-21, the trio, along with Disney+, collectively invested $628 million in Australian and Australia-related content, including acquisitions, representing a 135% increase over the previous year.

Netflix and Stan also took the opportunity to showcase their respective partnerships with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation as an example of their commitment to the genre.

For Netflix, there is a need for a definition of Australian content investment that is “broad enough to drive production and distribution across genres and flexible enough to reflect changing ways of funding, producing , distribution and consumption of content”.

“The emerging interrelation between content producers, broadcasters and
streaming entertainment companies are an important development in the content production ecosystem,” the submission argued.

“When Netflix partners with productions in Australia, we have access to quality stories and talent and can focus particularly on audiences and exports.”

The streamer also called for the definition of Australian content to be defined broadly to ensure that “regulatory intervention does not threaten existing revenue streams for producers if certain types of Australian productions are excluded”, using the example of Stan’s The tourist does not qualify as Australian content under the Continuous Voluntary Reporting Scheme.

Amazon Prime expressed the need for an equally broad definition of Australian culture in its submission, noting that Australian audiences were at the forefront of how culture is “defined, consumed and represented”.

“National cultural policy should be designed to promote, support and develop the innovative ways in which culture is created and expressed by and for Australians, so that producers can continue to tell authentic Australian stories to diverse Australian audiences,” a- he declared.

In line with its submission to the Green Paper, the service has issued a new call for what it describes as ‘evidence-based policy decisions’ following the 2021 Drama Report showing record levels of spending on drama production and the voluntary annual reporting system.

He also suggested that more emphasis should be placed on addressing skills and capacity shortages in the industry, rather than “finding regulatory levers to generate more investment in an already booming sector.” and stressed”.

Similarly, Stan draws attention to a “scoop of publicly available data that clearly shows that there is no market failure in the delivery and availability of local content that would require policy intervention in the streaming industry” amid a “booming production market” that has led to shortages in the availability of production facilities and key crews.

If the government does eventually introduce a content requirement, Stan says, it should apply to new entrants into the local streaming market controlled by large international companies, while adopting a carefully considered definition of Australian content and allowing acquisitions to be taken into account. the requirement.

The Australian-owned service maintains its long-standing belief that since it operates within a free-to-air commercial network already subject to content requirements, other requirements should be excluded to avoid duplication of regulatory obligations.

Foxtel, which is subject to the New Qualifying Drama Spend program, makes the same argument in its submission, also outlining some of the additional challenges it faces, including competition with major studios’ direct-to-consumer strategies and the purchasing power of streaming. companies; rising content prices due to increasing competition; global inflationary pressures affecting internal costs and consumer confidence; and the decline of the traditional live TV advertising market as content moves to online platforms.

The company goes on to describe the introduction of an Australian content requirement on its SVOD services as “unwarranted” and having the potential “to amplify existing regulatory distortions between Foxtel as a local provider and its international competitors”.

Foxtel, Netflix, Amazon and Stan submissions can be viewed on the arts department website.