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Labor’s rushed SVOD announcement leaves many questions unanswered

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

As reported in today’s Daily Telegraph, Labor is briefing out its plan to impose a 20 per cent Australian content quota on SVODs (such as Netflix, Stan & Disney+) in an obvious attempt to add some substance to its distinctly thin national cultural policy.

There are plenty of obvious questions which are raised by the proposal from Arts Minister Tony Burke.

How was the level of 20 per cent arrived at and precisely how will this content quota be calculated?

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?

Does ‘content’ mean drama – or does it include games shows and reality television?

Does ‘Australian’ mean the story has to be set in Australia – or is it sufficient to have an Australian writer or director?

Why does it makes sense to have three different sets of Australian content rules, one for free to air TV, one for pay TV (Foxtel) and a third for SVOD services?

Why does it make sense to have the Communications Minister making rules for free to air TV and pay TV and the Arts Minister making rules for SVOD services?

Why has Labor abandoned the principle of harmonising of the media regulatory framework that the ACCC recommended in 2019?

Why has the Communications Minister, who is meant to be responsible for screen content policy, agreed to be sidelined by the Arts Minister?

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.

29 January 2023

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