Government must ignore bluster of Netflix and Free TV and mandate local content obligations

The federal government must stay the course on the introduction of new content rules for Netflix and other streaming video services.

A content investment obligation for streaming video on demand (SVOD) services is needed to ensure Australian audiences have access to programming that is relevant to their lives and supports the domestic screen industry.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance is concerned at media reports that Netflix has been joined by free-to-air commercial television networks in opposing content regulation.

Revenue and audiences for SVOD providers are rapidly increasing, making Australia one of the most lucrative markets in the world. They should be required to invest a proportion of those earnings back into Australian content, said MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy.

“Australian content rules, expressed either as hours per year or as a proportion of company revenues, should be seen as an indispensable cost of doing business in Australia,” he said.

“Content rules provide Australian audiences with programs they want to watch, provide cultural reference points and sustain a large chunk of our creative industries.

“The government’s media reform green paper talks at length about the merits of requiring the production of Australian content.

“It acknowledges that Australia is a relatively small marketplace and that without content rules, broadcasters and operators would either stop or massively reduce investment in screen productions.

“We need to heed the warnings in the green paper and get cracking on establishing an new and fair way for multi-billion-dollar companies to better serve the Australian market.”

Mr Murphy said the viewing public should be sceptical of reasons put forward by Netflix and free TV for opposing content rules.

“We hope that the noise being generated by the green paper process will subside and that a sensible accommodation of all parties’ interest – including Australian consumers and workers – is arrived at soon.

“There is undeniable value in Australian content.

“It is the function of our regulatory system to give broadcasters, streaming services and others a prod in the right direction.

“Without such prods, the Australian production system would be vastly diminished, great stories will not be told and audiences will continue to be fed a diet of programs that are cheap and hard to consume.”

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