Free TV Australia came out swinging today following Bryan Brown’s speech to the National Press Club yesterday, where he called for 20% of revenues to be invested in local production on streaming platforms.
Calls for a balanced approach to regulating local content.
Yesterday Brown said, regarding streaming revenue: “We need a portion of that revenue returned to Australian Stories. And I mean Australian stories. Not stories shot in Australia with American accents. This is cultural death. We’ve been there.
“Canada and France have legislated that revenue taken from their countries must go into local production. In France it is over 25%.
“A 20% reinvestment requirement in Australia, complemented by strong and robust intellectual property deals, will help secure the future of our industry and keep it vibrant.
“Streaming companies will fight hard not to legislate, they are a business and we have to fight just as hard, because this is for our culture.”
Bridget Fair, CEO of Free TV Australia, said: “We agree that Australians love Australian stories, which is why we invest $1.5 billion into Australian content every year. But if the government intends to impose content quotas on streaming services, it must carefully consider the impact this will have on Australian audiences who rely on the free services of our local broadcasters.”
The question of why free-to-air networks should care about local quotas on streaming is an obvious one, but networks worry that increased local production will drive up costs, with crew shortages already a huge factor, as well as potentially seeing some of the best scripts secured by multinational companies with deep pockets.
“The display industry in Australia is booming. With independent data from Screen Australia and the Australian Bureau of Statistics showing that there is more manufacturing in this country right now than ever before, the government needs to be very clear on what problem it is trying to solve.
“Simply adding fuel to an already raging fire of rising costs in the production sector will have a significant impact on the ability of Australian broadcasters to continue to deliver the Australian programming our community relies on.
Recently released ABS data shows that over the past 5 years:
-There was a 60% increase in manufacturing businesses created and an 83% increase in manufacturing employment – more than 12,000 jobs.
-Massive growth in production costs of more than 130%, including a 143% increase in labor costs and a doubling of rent, lease and rental expenses.
“Ultimately it will be Australian viewers who are missing out if skyrocketing production costs mean that only the giant subscription services can afford to buy high-quality local content and Australians are forced to pay to watch it.”
While a report commissioned by Roy Morgan found that 81% of Australians want to watch more Australian-made TV, recent research from Seven West Media suggests that 91% of Australians would not be willing to pay more for Australian content.
“Free TV broadcasters produce 25,000 hours of Australian content each year providing trusted news, live and free sports, Australian drama and entertainment, and coverage of national disasters and breaking news,” said Ms Fair.
“And we provide this content for free to all Australians. 92% of Australians watch commercial television every month. With mounting cost-of-living pressures and growing concerns about the role of social media and digital platforms in our community, we need a strong local media sector more than ever.”