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Aussie TV body demands Netflix contribution

Aussie industry body Screen Producers Australia has called on streaming service Netflix to contribute a “fair share” into the local production sector.

The SPA claimed US-based Netflix and other SVOD services could not “have their cake and eat it” – effectively be treated as a broadcaster in some helpful areas, but not in terms of investment in production and distribution.

Also claiming that Amazon Prime Video’s launch in Australia was “imminent”, SPA CEO Matthew Deaner called on the government to ensure SVOD companies “contribute their fair share to the Australian production industry by commissioning Australian content”.

“For SVOD in Australia, 2015 was the year of disruption, 2016 was the year of consolidation and we’re hoping 2017 will be the year of contribution,” Deaner said.

“The call is for SVOD services to contribute to the communities whose public infrastructure they rely on and from whom they derive their super-profits. The time has come for SVOD services give back to the Australian community and tell Australian stories.”

Netflix has invested in programming in various local markets during its international expansion phase, but has not spent on original programming in Australia despite being in the territory since March 2015.

The SPA has been calling for closer regulation of SVOD services for some time, and Deaner claimed that this was becoming the consensus view globally. “This year we saw policy makers, broadcasters and producers both here and around the world unite behind this position,” said Deaner.

Netflix recently agreed with the government to reclassify its business and be treated as a traditional broadcaster. It is not, however, held to the same standards as commercial TV market leaders Network Seven, Network Nine and Network Ten, whom are all duty-bound to invest certain amounts in content, pay taxes and pay for their broadcasting licences.

Deaner said this disparity was a key area to address, as the market could “not solve this on its own”.

“In Australia, broadcasters have responsibilities not just to pay tax, but to contribute to Australian stories for adults and children alike,” he added. “These stories shape and strengthen our Australian identity and narrative.

“This contribution is important given their role in our community and access to public spectrum, audience and a continuing privileged competitive environment. Broadcasters are asked to pay their fair share. SVOD services, who are increasingly relying on other forms of public infrastructure such as the NBN [broadband network], must contribute too.

“SVOD services don’t get to have their cake and eat it too. You can’t ask to be treated like a broadcaster in one area – content classification – but then turn a blind eye to the other elements of the regulatory environment such as contributions to the production and distribution of Australian content.”

Furthermore, Deaner noted European regulators had taken steps to bring SVOD services in line with rivals, and that Canada was looking at a similar model.

“This year Europe took the lead and required SVOD services to contribute to local production and local stories,” said Deaner. “We see Canada heading down a similar path to ensure local content is respected and supported. In 2017, I am calling on the Australian government to ensure SVOD services contribute their fair share.”

Netflix had not responded to the comments at press time.