How Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Could Be Forced to Produce Aussie Content

How Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Could Be Forced to Produce Aussie Content

The federal government has announced a new national cultural policy dubbed ‘Revive’, which is a five-year plan to bring interest to the Australian arts and entertainment sector. As a part of the policy, streaming services operating within Australia will need to produce a ‘quota’ of content, but what does this actually mean?

Well, firstly, let’s take a step back. Revive is currently a plan for the next five years of arts growth in Australia, ranging from live music to art galleries to videogames. It’s tied to Creative Australia, a new government body for issuing grants. Both the plan and the body were unveiled at a launch yesterday, which was streamed to YouTube.

The things inside the 116-page paper represent the federal government’s position on commitments to the arts, but many of the proposals in the paper would need to be argued in parliament.

Such is the case with the proposed Australian streaming quota requirements. If we turn to page 89 of the Revive paper (under the subheading ‘Actions’), the federal government is aiming to “introduce requirements for Australian screen content on streaming platforms to ensure continued access to local stories and content in the third quarter of 2023 and to commence no later than 1 July 2024.” This point is also reflected on page 105, as part of its fifth pillar of action to undertake.

On page 87, the government notes a trend away from broadcast TV and toward streaming, where Australian content quota regulations don’t exist (while they do for TV channels).

“These new streaming platforms are producing some high-quality Australian content. However, unlike free-to-air broadcasting services and subscription television, these services have no requirements to make Australian content available on their platforms. The ready availability of mass content produced in other countries, particularly the United States, risks drowning out the voices of Australian storytellers,” the paper notes.

“The government has committed to take the necessary action so that Australians continue to be able to see and hear quality home-grown content, regardless of which platform they are using. It is important that streaming services invest in key genres, including children’s content, scripted drama and documentaries.”

It’s genuinely hard to argue against this. While some terrific Australian shows were made in 2023, in particular Heartbreak High, and more episodes of Bluey and Bump (Season 3), Australian-made content is still a fraction of what we consume from other countries, and new laws could help increase the output of Australian content.

What will those laws entail? Well, according to the paper, the government will consult with industry stakeholders to decide on the right course of action, as part of a broader reform of media legislation.

Perhaps the rules will take shape similar to those in Europe, where some countries require major streaming services to produce a quota of up to 30 per cent European content within their streaming libraries.

Specifics about the Australian streaming quota have not been outlined just yet – meaning we don’t know just how many shows will be required from streaming platforms, nor what support the government will provide to produce these shows.

But, as reported by the ABC, stakeholders in the sector have previously argued that 20 per cent of revenue generated by streaming services in Australia should be directed back into making local content. Tying content obligations to revenue would be a better course of action than tying it to profits, considering that Netflix has never turned a profit without debt.

The plan has been welcomed with open arms by the Media and Entertainment Arts Alliance (the union representing creative professionals in Australia). The union said in a statement that it’s looking forward to “working with the government to bed down specific initiatives, particularly the requirements for Australian screen content on streaming platforms to ensure continued access to local stories.”

“Once in place, these new content requirements will deliver a big boost to investment in Australian-made productions, in turn creating thousands more jobs and opportunities for our world-class performers and crew,” the Alliance added.

The federal government is committing $286 million towards growing the arts and entertainment sector as outlined in the plan. Another key highlight was the revival of the Interactive Games Fund.