06 February, 2022
The Australian Writers’ Guild is disappointed by the minor reforms proposed in the Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme put forward by Minister Fletcher today.
Under the proposed scheme, which is the outcome of the Government’s work to change the free-to-air TV market and implement platform-neutral regulation, large streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney will be required to ‘report annually on their expenditure and provision of Australian content’. Should those services fail to invest 5 per cent of their gross locally-sourced revenue in producing Australian content, only then will the Minister impose a formal investment requirement.
After a year of consultation with our industry, this proposal falls short. The Australian screen industry has waited years for firm Government action on the issue of streamer regulation and the rate of obligation announced today falls far below the Australian content investment requirement that the sector has been united in calling for. The proposal is insufficient to lay the foundation for the robust, sustainable and internationally-competitive screen industry that the Government claims to support.
AWG has long argued that qualifying streaming platforms should invest 20 per cent of their Australian-sourced revenue in commissioning new Australian content. A 20 per cent rate is needed to balance the loss of production that has been reported since Minister Fletcher relaxed drama, documentary and children’s sub-quotas in 2020 for the commercial networks (Seven, Nine and Ten). Data from Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority shows that the commercial broadcasters halved their investment in local drama from $107m in 2018/19 to $54m in 2020/21, following these changes. This means fewer Australian stories on Australian screens.
The news of this inadequate regulatory response is compounded by yesterday’s announcement from UK’s Channel 5 that it has dropped Neighbours after a 37-year history of employing many thousands of Australians. The UK network claimed that audiences are moving towards streaming platforms and high-budget drama, and that, ‘Our current focus is on increasing our investment in original UK drama, which has strong appeal for our UK viewers.’
AWG Executive Director Claire Pullen states, ‘The Australian Government should provide a framework to ensure the protection of Australian drama for Australian viewers and the generation of Australian jobs.’
AWG President Shane Brennan last year said in a roundtable discussion with Minister Fletcher, ‘We have an opportunity to carve a new industry here, or we can destroy this one with a thousand cuts.’
AWG will work with members to formulate its submission to the Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme Discussion Paper, due on 24 April 2022. We will fight for the following: