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Local content policy vacuum continues

The Senate inquiry into the economic and cultural value of Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services has finally issued its report.

It’s taken 2 1/2 years and 5 extensions to get to the report. Even so, there is no consensus on how to move forward.

The report recognises locally produced Australian content as ‘the cornerstone of the Australian screen industry‘. It recognises the importance of ‘the correct policy settings to support the growth and future of the Australian screen industry.’ It calls for ‘a framework of broadcast content quotas, fair terms of contract and government incentives‘.

But there’s no detail.

Senators on the committee have apparently reached ‘differing conclusions’, which are detailed in additional comments.

  • The Greens have 10 quite specific recommendations (summarised below).
  • Labor called again for the release of the Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review. That Review was conducted by the Department of Communications, Screen Australia and ACMA in 2017, and was the subject of a denied Freedom of Information Request in late 2018.

Meanwhile, SVODs continue to grow, with no requirement to commission any local content. The producer offset continues at two different rates dependent on format and distribution channel.

It’s a bit like Brexit. We all know something should be done. We just can’t decide what.

Summary of Greens Recommendations

  1. Maintain the content quota system to ensure the production of uniquely Australian content, and children’s television.
  2. Require SVOD services to invest at least 10% of local revenue in local content. Also to promote local content, although there’s no detail on this yet.
  3. Ask the ACCC to consider whether UK-style Terms of Trade provisions would help address current oligopsonic market conditions.
    (Oligopsonic is our new word for the day! It describes a market with only a few buyers.)
  4. ACMA to work with CRA, ARIA, APRA and AMCOS to ensure commercial broadcasters meet current Australian content obligations.
    ARIA, APRA and AMCOS also to explore local content obligations with the music streaming services.
  5. A single Producer Offset of 40 per cent for all types of qualifying production, including both film and television.
    This Producer Offset not available to broadcasters to ensure the future of Australia’s independent production sector.
  6. Remove the 65 hour cap on television series accessing the Producer Offset.
  7. No longer recognise New Zealand content for the purpose of Australian content quotas.
  8. Increase the Location Offset to 30 per cent.
  9. Decouple the Location and PDV Offsets so an eligible production can claim both.
  10. Make the Location and PDV Offsets platform-neutral so SVOD services can access them too.

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