AWG responds to release of Media Reform Green Paper

30 November, 2020

The Australian Writers’ Guild is heartened by the Australian Government’s recently released Green Paper, which proposes long-overdue media industry reform. The announcement offers a glimmer of hope to a crippled screen industry that has been weakened by evolving consumer habits, inadequate support and diminished production due to COVID-19.

The Green Paper outlines the introduction of an investment obligation for subscription and advertising video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube and Disney+. The fine details will be investigated and developed over a twelve-month period.

AWG welcomes this long-awaited acknowledgement of the need for industry regulation. To complement the Government’s intention to recognise our national broadcasters as key providers of Australian content, AWG calls for increased funding for the ABC and SBS.

For many years, AWG has campaigned for the regulation of streaming services to ensure that Australian stories are commissioned and programmed on current and emerging platforms.

AWG President Shane Brennan met with Communications, Cyber Safety and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher in February to discuss a platform-neutral industry framework and the importance of local content quotas. On multiple occasions, AWG delegates have consulted with politicians at Parliament House and participated in sector-wide roundtable discussions. In July, the Guild put forward a submission to the ‘Supporting Australian Stories on our Screens’ Options Paper. This review was commissioned by the Government and facilitated by Screen Australia and the ACMA, in response to the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.

When the Government announced its changes to local content rules at the end of September, the industry was shocked and disillusioned by its failure to regulate streaming giants, who have benefited from the pandemic and currently pay limited tax in Australia.

Friday’s announcement offers a new direction and a window of opportunity for Australian creators.

The Paper provides the AWG and its members with a chance to contribute ideas on how the regulatory mechanisms should be designed to support writers and forge pathways to production in the contemporary market.

AWG looks forward to engaging with members and Government over coming months as it prepares its submission to the Green Paper (due on Sunday 7 March 2021). You can read more about the process here.

The Government is seeking views on a number of proposed measures, which include:

  • Offering commercial broadcasters the choice to operate under a new kind of commercial television broadcasting licence, with a reduced regulatory burden provided they agree to move at a future point to using less radiofrequency spectrum;
  • Promoting the public interest by using proceeds from freed-up spectrum to invest in Australian news and screen content;
  • Introducing an Australian content spend obligation on video-on-demand services; and
  • Formalising the role of national broadcasters as key providers of Australian content.