Streaming Aussie content debate resurfaces

The government wants the four largest on-demand streaming services to invest more in local shows.
The government wants the four largest on-demand streaming services to invest more in local shows.

Streaming giants Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney and Stan could face action to ensure Australian content is produced on their platforms.

The Morrison government last year requested the four largest on-demand streaming services report investment in local shows.

Between Amazon Prime, Disney, Netflix and Stan more than $150 million was spent on Australian programs in 2019/20.

"But more intervention may be required," Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher told the National Press Club on Wednesday.

"The green paper we released late last year proposed a formal Australian content spend requirement on the global streaming services."

The government is examining responses to the document and weighing further action.

Deloitte's latest media consumer survey showed four out of five Australian households have at least one paid digital entertainment subscription.

About 70 per cent of Australians pay for at least one streaming video on demand service.

Mr Fletcher said the rapid transformation of how people viewed content - supercharged by the pandemic - raised questions about competition between traditional TV and streaming services.

"What does it mean for our cultural policy objective of Australian audiences being able to see Australian content on their screens?" he said.

"What does it mean for the Australian screen production sector?

"And as the streaming sector demands ever more content to show to global audiences, how can we make sure Australian producers are getting their fair share in this market?"

Labor's arts spokesman Tony Burke has criticised the government for failing to slap local content quotas on streaming services despite almost a decade of warnings.

"Our creators are incredibly talented and there's nothing - apart from a bit of political will - stopping them producing more incredible content that could delight audiences at home and abroad," he said this week.

Mr Fletcher also raised the prospect of using the internet to provide greater transparency and scrutiny of governments.

He used real-time data about public transport, endangered species and tracking of government spending as examples.

"Sometimes the tendency can be to resist such scrutiny; the better response I argue is using the internet to make all kinds of information ... accessible to citizens."

A wealth of daily coronavirus data including case numbers to vaccines has been made available on government websites during the pandemic.

The minister rejected suggestions governments should not try to regulate online activity, pointing to the news media bargaining code as evidence global giants accept laws.

Australian Associated Press