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Labor ministers’ streaming quota turf war threatens consistent media policy

Joint media release

Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy, Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts
Senator the Hon Sarah Henderson, Shadow Minister for Communications

Arts Minister Tony Burke’s plan to legislate a 20 per cent Australian domestic production quota on streaming video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix and Disney+ raises many serious questions, Shadow Minister for the Arts, Paul Fletcher and Shadow Communications Minister Senator Sarah Henderson said today.
In Government the Coalition did detailed policy work on Australian content obligations for SVODs.  That work balanced Arts and Communications portfolio policy considerations and drew on the ACCC’s 2019 Digital Platforms Review which recommended ‘harmonising of the media regulatory framework’  – so that as much as possible the rules which apply to media businesses should be consistent across different platforms and technologies.
We required the SVODs to report to the Australian Communications and Media Authority on their Australian content production spend.
We issued a Green Paper with proposals on SVOD regulation and other media regulation issues.
After considering stakeholder responses to the Green Paper in February 2022 we announced our plan for a Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme to incentivise large SVOD services to invest in Australian content.
Under this scheme large SVODs such as Netflix and Amazon Prime would face a legislative requirement to report to the ACMA annually on their expenditure on and provision of Australian content. Where the reporting showed a particular SVOD service had spent less than 5 per cent of Australian revenue on Australian content, the Minister would have power under the legislation to impose an Australian content spending obligation on that SVOD.
We then issued a consultation paper seeking feedback on details of the scheme.
But now Labor’s Arts Minister is proposing a completely different approach, ignoring the work done by the previous Government, and Labor’s Communications Minister is silent.
Plenty of obvious questions are raised by Mr Burke’s proposal.
How was the level of 20 per cent arrived at?
How does it compare to domestic content quotas in other countries?
What impact would a 20 per cent level have on the profitability of SVODs in Australia?  Is there any risk that existing SVODs will withdraw from the Australian market rather than face this regulatory impost?
How would his scheme treat SVODs which are part of a larger group which also includes free to air television broadcasting – such as Stan and Paramount?
What will be the definition of Australian content?
Why has Labor abandoned the principle of harmonising of the media regulatory framework?
The issue of Australian content quotas for SVODs must be determined as part of a consistent approach to Australian media policy, weighing up all relevant factors including the interests of the Australian production sector, the sustainability of SVOD services and competitive neutrality between different parts of the media sector.
At the moment the Arts Minister is doing all the talking and there is no evidence that the broader media policy considerations are being weighed up appropriately.
The Coalition will hold a round table in Canberra on Monday 21 November with SVOD businesses to discuss these issues.

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