AWG submission to the Supporting Australian Stories on our Screens Options Paper

02 July, 2020

Screens Options Paper

The Australian Writers’ Guild wishes to update members on our submission to the ‘Supporting Australian stories on our screens’ Options Paper, which proposes a new support framework for Australian stories in a multi-platform environment.

The Options Paper was co-authored by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and Screen Australia, in response to the Government’s request following the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.
To achieve a robust Australian screen industry, with adequate development, funding and promotion of local content across platforms, the Australian Writers’ Guild recommends the following:

  1. Introduce clear and accurate legislative definitions of the terms ‘new’, ‘first-release’, ‘commissioned’, ‘scripted’, and ‘Australian content’. In particular, the term ‘scripted’ must be carefully defined to avoid a domination of reality television and light entertainment. Existing definitions for ‘drama’, ‘documentary’ and ‘children’s content’ are fit for purpose and should be preserved.
  2. Regulate all service providers by requiring them to negotiate tailored content investment plans with ACMA. These investment plans must include a local quota requirement measured in expenditure and hours. 
  3. Preserve local content quotas on free-to-air broadcasters and extend the application of those quotas to all qualifying service providers, including SVOD platforms and the national broadcasters.
  4. Require qualifying SVOD platforms who fail to meet their local content obligations to reinvest their revenue into a local content development fund. 
  5. Protect children’s content by requiring SVOD platforms to screen first release Australian children’s content if they screen international children’s content.
  6. Introduce a 10% cultural uplift on the Producer Offset for any production whose creator(s), showrunner, writers and directors are Australian citizens or permanent residents.

The Australian Writers’ Guild has fought for quotas ever since they were introduced in the 1970s when Australian shows represented just 1% of content shown on television. We continue to fight to make sure they continue today. Scripted drama, children’s content and documentary is the most powerful way to tell Australian stories from our own perspective and in our own voices. But they are vulnerable.

SVOD services such as Stan, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have no obligation at all to contribute to the local market and are able to fly under the radar in terms of delivering content to the audiences that they are serving. While 5.6 million Australians currently subscribe to Netflix, bringing in at least $700 million annual revenue from Australian subscriptions, the Australian content in their catalogue fell to 1.6% in 2018.

Without government intervention, commercial imperatives will prevail, and broadcasters, SVODs and content providers will continue to import international scripted drama, which costs them a fraction of what it would cost to make in Australia.

If the Government and the commercial broadcasters want to create a level playing field, allowing broadcasters and SVODs to co-exist, the solution is not to deregulate and decimate the industry. The solution is to ensure that regulation is fit-for-purpose and that it is applied in an even-handed way.

To read the Australian Writers' Guild's full submission to the Options Paper, go here
If you would like to learn more about the Australian Writers’ Guild’s submission, you can contact our Industrial team at [email protected].