Australian Writers’ Guild criticises Government delay, lack of vision in its submission to the Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme Discussion Paper

6 May, 2022

The Australian Writers’ Guild has today submitted its response to the Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme Discussion Paper, arguing that the minor reforms proposed by the Government in the Scheme are insufficient to lay the foundation for the robust, sustainable and internationally-competitive screen industry that the Government claims to support. It has highlighted the opportunities presented by the radical changes to our industry through the introduction of streaming services, and recommended bold action to build an Australian creative powerhouse.

The Guild’s Executive Director, Claire Pullen, says, 'we want to capitalise on the huge opportunities before us, to have Australia’s amazing content on screens all over the world and here at home. We produce some of the best content in the world. We want to watch it; audiences overseas love to watch it.'
 
'The pandemic has seen us engaging with more content than ever before, but we need regulation that delivers fair competition and a foundation for our industry. It’s time for the Government to be bold and show that it backs the Aussie industry, and backs our jobs in the sector.'
 
'We are confident there’s a bright future ahead with the right settings. Coasting on as we have been isn’t a path to anything but the slow death of our industry and sending those jobs overseas.'
 
The Guild has long supported the position that qualifying streaming platforms should invest 20 per cent of their Australian-sourced revenue in commissioning new Australian content. Our screen industry has waited years for firm Government action on the issue of streamer regulation, and the proposed rate of 5 per cent in the Discussion Paper is feeble and disappointing. The policy conversation regarding these issues has been in train for a decade, and the need for meaningful regulatory action has been clear for many years. 

Read the Australian Writers’ Guild’s full submission to the Discussion Paper here.

If you would like to learn more about the Australian Writers’ Guild’s submission, see below or contact our Industrial team at industrial@awg.com.au.


In our submission to the Discussion Paper, the Australian Writers’ Guild calls on the Government to consider the following:

  1. Government should introduce regulation that requires eligible streaming-video-on-demand (SVOD) and advertising-video-on-demand (AVOD) services to invest 20% of their Australian-sourced revenue into commissioning new Australian content. The proposed rate of 5% is not sufficient for a sustainable screen industry and it is out of step with the international regulatory response in jurisdictions which are comparable to Australia in terms of the level of subscription to streaming platforms.  
  2. These content reinvestment obligations must specifically include investment in critical genres (such as drama, children’s television and documentary) and minimum hours to avoid situations where monetary expenditure alone allows a service provider to discharge its obligations but, instead, encourages them to commission a variety of new, diverse Australian narrative content. 
  3. The proposed reform features an untenable level of ministerial discretion. For example, the introduction of separate Tier 1’ and ‘Tier 2’ categories, with the requirement of the Minister’s approval to move between categories, serves no clear purpose and introduces unnecessary discretion. The regulation should simply apply to a qualifying service provider that fails to meet its reinvestment obligations. Similarly, there should also be clear and transparent thresholds for the designation of a service provider as a qualifying service provider (i.e. ‘Tier 1’). This threshold should be 500,000 subscribers or registered users and AU$50 million per annum in Australian revenue. 
  4. The weakness of the scheme proposed is particularly disappointing given the significant amount of time it has taken to develop: the policy conversation regarding these issues has been in train for a decade and the need for meaningful regulatory action has been clear for many years.
  5. We oppose the proposed halving of the subscription television Australian drama obligation. The proposal is without policy justification and is contrary to the recommendations made by the Senate Standing Committee that the Foxtel cuts be withdrawn. 
  6. We recommend that a statutory remuneration scheme is implemented in line with the EU Copyright Directive, to protect an important stream of remuneration for Australian screenwriters. A statutory scheme will streamline the collection of secondary royalties from subscription streaming platforms and will go far in supporting Australian creatives who work in the Australian screen sector without relying on direct investment. 

The ability and opportunity to tell Australian stories from our own perspective and in our own voice has been fought for by the industry for many decades. The arrival of the major streaming platforms in Australia represents an enormous opportunity to grow our local screen industry, however regulation is urgent and necessary. The 5 per cent reinvestment obligation proposed under the Scheme will not be sufficient to reignite a contracted screen sector, let alone stimulate the growth of a robust and sustainable one. The Government can ensure that we are best placed to take advantage of this opportunity by setting the reinvestment obligation for qualifying streaming platforms at 20 per cent. 

Read the Australian Writers’ Guild’s full response to the Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme here.


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