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The Australian Screen Industry Group has backed Screen Producers Australia’s assessment of the Federal Government’s proposed Streaming Services Reporting and Investment Scheme as “weak”, while also warning of damage to the industry from delayed regulation.

Consisting of 14 industry guilds and organisations, including SPA, the Australian Writers’ Guild, the Australian Directors’ Guild, and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, ASIG used its submission to the government’s discussion paper to identify multiple issues with the new strategy, many of which were also raised by SPA in its own submission.

Under the government’s scheme, services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ will required to report annually to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) on their Australian content spend. If a service’s investment on commissions falls below 5 per cent of its local revenue, the Minister has the power to impose a formal investment requirement.

ASIG joined SPA in calling for a 20 per cent Australian commissioned content expenditure requirement, believing the proposed 5 per cent threshold will “fall far short of what is required”. Further, it expressed concern a service deemed ‘Tier 2’ – that is, subject to a formal investment requirement – may face a rate of obligation less than 5 per cent.

The group also echoed SPA’s concerns about the “alarming” amount of ministerial discretion involved in the framework and emphasised the need for terms of trade to be addressed in the discussion paper. While ASIG welcomed the opportunity to contribute, the submission noted that “any further delay in regulation at this late stage is damaging to the industry”.

The submission comes after SPA responded to Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher’s comments to IF regarding the scheme.

The organisation dismissed the Minister’s claim the framework would be enough to capitilise on the growth opportunities offered by the streaming sector, saying the industry “can do far better”.

“In its detailed evidence, SPA has argued that the sector, which is made up of a significant number of Australian small businesses needs and merits a robust plan for industry growth,” it said.

“Other territories that have qualities that are comparable to the Australian market and industry have already placed clear, certain and much higher requirements on these streaming services. 

“Australia’s proposed scheme would amount to less than 0.3 per cent of these global businesses’ content spend on Australian content.

“This simply does not deliver the Australian content that we know audiences both here and elsewhere want.”

SPA also took issue with Minister Fletcher’s assertion that there was “no kind of increase in ministerial discretion” in the proposal, rejecting the “characterisation of this as just business as usual”.

“Regulatory decision-making should be through a commonly understood framework that is transparent and offers consistent, predictable and positive outcomes and is characterised by arm’s length decision-making and Parliamentary scrutiny,” SPA said.

“Anything else makes regulation more subjective and uncertain.

“There are clear examples of frameworks in comparable countries for streaming services that are predictable and robust and that support local industry, that Australia should be modelling. Anything less exposes our industry to incredible ongoing uncertainty, on which other markets will capitalise.”

Find the full ASIG submission here.

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