A Federal Government proposal which would have allowed Foxtel to reduce its spending on Australian drama content has been dropped after a Senate committee today voted against the proposal.
Foxtel had been seeking changes to the subscription TV drama content quota from the current level of 10% to 5%.
Foxtel currently spends around $24 million per year on Australian drama content, but the pay-tv broadcaster had been pushing for greater flexibility with its content funding.
The pay-tv broadcaster had proposed the change to the quota rules would have allowed it to spend less in local drama while increasing spending in genres such as lifestyle and reality content which it believed would have provided a better return for its investment.
Foxtel is competing against a range of international streaming services which currently have no requirement to invest in Australian content
Today’s decision to drop the legislation change was welcomed by Screen Producers Australia (SPA) with the organisations CEO Matthew Deaner stating:
“These are sensible findings, and we thank the Committee for its careful consideration of these complex issues. There is an in-depth policy discussion currently going on about the best way in which to modernise and future-proof Australian content regulation and the role of highly profitable and popular streaming services in delivering Australian content to their audiences.
“We think it’s right that any further cuts to Australian content rules on traditional media are held back until we understand what rules will apply to services like Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.”
A spokesperson for Foxtel acknowledged the decision today telling TV Blackbox;
“We understand the Committee’s view that reforms to Foxtel’s drama obligation are better dealt with as part of a holistic approach to reform.
While there is much to do, we believed the Government’s Australian Screen Content Package announced last September recognised a broad range of needs.
In addition to the proposed reduction in the subscription television drama obligation, the screen sector received an additional $53 million in funding and improvements to the Producer Offset, while free to air television also benefitted from simplified Australian content rules.
As the Government and the Committee has identified, there remains an urgent need to have a more level playing field for local subscription television.
Our view is these historical drama obligations have the effect of favouring new global streaming giants ahead of local players, and they distort investment in Australian stories away from genres that our subscribers want to watch.
Screen Producers Australia has put forward a submission to the Government’s Media Reform Green Paper proposing that streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime be required to spend 20% of locally sourced revenues on commissioning new Australian content, with minimum requirements to protect drama, documentary and children’s content.