Matthew Deaner at Screen Forever.

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner. 

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has called on the Federal Government to set a growth target for the Australian screen industry – one that would see the production of Australian content, rate of employment and size of the industry double within five years.

In its submission to the government’s ‘Supporting Australian Stories on Our Screens’ options paper, prepared by Screen Australia and the ACMA, SPA argues that adopting an “ambitious” target would help focus the reform agenda.

“Achieving this target will deliver a substantial increase in the amount and quality of culturally relevant content available to Australians, and will drive significant jobs growth and economic activity,” the organisation says.

The consultation period closes tomorrow on the government’s paper, which lays out four models for how Australian screen content be regulated and incentivised into the future.

The document is seen as a first step towards it determining future content obligations on free-to-air TV, and whether there should be local content requirements imposed on currently unregulated SVOD services like Netflix and Stan.

SPA’s submission proposes the government adopt reform measures broadly similar to that of the paper’s third ‘significant reform’ model, calling for a platform-agnostic expenditure requirement for content providers, spanning commercial FTAs, subscription TV, SVOD, AVOD/BVOD and IPTV.

This requirement would be based on revenue and tailored to individual business and operating models.

Within such a model, SPA argues there must be minimum requirements and protection of vulnerable genres such as scripted drama, comedy, children’s and documentary. Each provider must also commit to reporting, promotion and discoverability obligations.

“The incorporation of new streaming platforms into the regulatory mix is the key to unlocking the growth potential of the production industry and ensuring Australians continue to have access to cultural content on the platforms they are using. Given the global nature of most streaming businesses, this will open the door to the international market, which will deliver substantial in-flows of investment and will stimulate robust growth, all without any public expenditure,” it says.

In SPA’s proposal, the ABC and SBS/NITV would also face content obligations, with funding quarantined for vulnerable genres.

With specific regards to children’s content, SPA proposes that C and P quotas for commercial FTAs are scrapped, replaced by minimum requirements for ‘youth content’ aimed at children 0-16 years, including a sub-requirement for scripted. This would be combined with a liberalisation of FTA advertising rules.

Further, it advocates for a proportion of the ABC’s funding be tied to children’s content (C and P), that SBS/NITV receive additional funding to create Indigenous and multicultural content (including P, C and youth) and for streamers which stream any international children’s content to be also required to screen first-run Australian children’s content. It also calls for a specific children’s content fund.

With regards to the offsets, SPA argues that the Producer Offset should be set at 40 per cent for all Australian features, TV drama and comedy, documentary and children’s, while light entertainment receive a rebate of 30 per cent. This would include the removal of the requirement for features to have a ‘bricks and mortar’ release.

Such a move would position Australian content to be more internationally competitive, particularly in the English language market, SPA suggests. It would also close the current loophole that allows some footloose international production to access higher levels of rebates – through a combination of the Location Offset (16.5 per cent) and top-up location incentive (13.5 per cent) – than what Australian producers can currently access for TV content (20 per cent).

Further, SPA argues the Location and PDV Offsets should also be harmonised at 30 per cent, and available to scripted features, TV drama and comedy, children’s content, documentary and light entertainment.

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