Netflix, YouTube and other streaming companies could be forced to produce more Australian content, the communications minister, Paul Fletcher, has said.
Free-to-air broadcasters in Australia are required to transmit at least 55% Australian programming on their primary channels between 6am and midnight, and 1,460 hours of Australian programming on non-primary channels every year.
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In the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) report on digital platforms released on Friday, the ACCC recommends that the same media laws and regulations that apply to media companies in Australia should also apply to digital platforms like Google and Facebook.
The report doesn’t specifically address local content rules, but on ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday, Fletcher said local content rules would be included in this harmonisation.
“Today, the free-to-air networks have an obligation to show a certain amount of Australian content. They have to pay to produce or show that. But streaming platforms like Netflix or YouTube don’t have such obligations, even though they’re capturing a huge number of eyeballs in the Australian market, and in the case of Netflix, substantial revenue,” he said.
Insiders ABC (@InsidersABC) "Would you like to see #Netflix making a bigger contribution to the Australian economy?" @annabelcrabb asks @PaulFletcherMP, as the Government looks to tighten laws on online media companies #Insiders #auspol pic.twitter.com/JntkGpGd2J July 27, 2019
“And for example, there are different rules about advertising on free-to-air television, as compared to what YouTube or Netflix faces. And so, therefore, the call for harmonisation is something that, in principle, we’ve indicated we accept.”
Fletcher said any changes would be rolled out over a long period of time, and the government would put out a “roadmap” for when any such changes take place by the end of the year.
Netflix and YouTube’s owner Google are likely to fight any move by the government to force them to comply with local content quotas.
In response to a parliamentary inquiry on local content rules last year, Netflix’s manager of global public policy, Josh Korn, said the company was already creating a lot of Australian content, like Pine Gap or Tidelands and the traditional rules for broadcast can’t be applied to streaming because it doesn’t work in the same way.
“Online business models, such as Netflix’s, depend on consumers consistently finding amazing content to watch, not just at prime time, but whenever the consumer wants,” Korn said.
“Australia has talented creators whose content is already being distributed all over the globe on streaming services. But reflexive application of regulations built for a market with limited organic demand, or predicated on technical or resource scarcity, can disrupt this virtuous cycle by distorting consumer-driven content buying decisions that have spurred growth of Australian content production and global distribution.”
Google said in its submission there is already a significant amount of Australian content on YouTube, with more than 550,000 hours of video uploaded to Australian YouTube channels in 2016.
“Australian creators have enjoyed incredible creative and financial success on YouTube, to the great benefit of both Australian and worldwide audiences. There is no reason to doubt that Australian creators will continue to create world class Australian content across the entire content ecosystem, for the benefit of Australian audiences.”