Opinion: Why global streaming services should reinvest in Australian stories

ADG executive director Sophie Harper, SPA CEO Matthew Deaner, AWG executive director Claire Pullen, Australian Children’s Television Foundation CEO Jenny Buckland and SLR Productions CEO Suzanne Ryan at Parliament House last week.
Australian culture has always been well defined through its screens — think Darryl Kerrigan, Muriel, Kath and Kim and Mick Dundee. Our stories are worth telling and they should be shared across the world, writes Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner. He argues it’s past time for international streaming platforms to be legally bound to invest in Australian content, noting a 20 per cent revenue reinvestment requirement would deliver at least $300 million towards local projects and up to 10,000 jobs.

Can you imagine an Australia without Muriel’s Wedding, Kath and Kim, Home and Away, Red Dog or even The Castle? We’d all be suffering in our jocks, as the great Darryl Kerrigan would say.

Without a thriving Australian screen industry there is no Heartbreak High, Animal Kingdom or Mystery Road. These are not just famous Australian TV and films, they have captured global headlines and attention too.

We want to ensure Australians see our country reflected back at them in the television shows and movies they are streaming. We want to ensure the Australian screen industry goes from strength to strength, delivering the full suite of jobs and economic dividends it is recognised for.

With the hyper-growth of streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, Australian content is at risk if we don’t have a plan for a fair, flexible regulatory framework for these businesses that will ensure the Australian screen sector remains sustainable. With the Albanese Government’s consultation currently underway, Screen Producers Australia is calling for a model that is fair, flexible and sustainable for Australia’s local screen producers.

We believe it is fair that major streaming platforms be required to reinvest 20 per cent of their Australian revenue into newly commissioned Australian stories. This is what already happens in nations with strong domestic film industries, such as France and Italy, where cultural heritage is closely guarded and valued. 

A 20 per cent reinvestment from streaming services would deliver at least $300 million into the development of local content. It would support a vibrant Australian production industry and up to 10,000 local jobs, all while representing less than 0.5 per cent of the collective global budget that these streaming services have allotted for new content.

The majority of those businesses leading Australia’s screen industry are independent, small and medium size. Therefore, any investment obligation should be designed to benefit the entire screen ecosystem.

To be truly independent and to safeguard our cultural sovereignty, Australian producers must be able to retain more of their Australian intellectual property. Only then is our Australian screen industry sustainable in the face of increasingly dominant global streaming platforms.

We absolutely need to construct this flexibly, with an investment obligation on Australian-generated revenue that rises and falls in line with subscriber and advertising numbers.

Australia is renowned globally for a screen industry that punches well above its weight. But as more and more viewers shift online, it’s vitally important that we ensure Australians can continue to access their own stories when and where they want to.

Without regulation, there’s a risk of less investment in local productions, our cultural identity fading, and a suffering Australian domestic screen industry that will no longer generate thousands of jobs every year.

Australia is home to the world’s oldest living storytellers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, as well as a thriving and creative multicultural community. Our stories are rich and diverse, and they deserve to be shared with the world.