Uncertainty Over Australian Streamer Regulation “Causing Great Angst,” Claims Producers Body

Last week, Australia’s screen industries were celebrating an increase in the country’s Location Offset scheme, but this week “great angst” is washing through the production community.

That’s according to Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner, who has warned that while the government keeps overdue streaming regulation on hold, Australia is “on track to develop more as a service provider for Hollywood productions.”

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“While the recent confirmation of the increase in Australia’s Location Offset that benefits non-Australian projects was great news, the absence of commensurate certainty for Australia’s home-grown industry and Australian projects through streaming regulation is now causing great angst in our industry,” said Deaner.

The SPA supported raising the Location Offset rebate for TV and film productions shooting in the country from the previous 16.5% to 30%, which will likely trigger more overseas investment, and the service work it could bring, but has been vocally critical of both government and the streamers.

Streaming regulation, which will dictate how much of their local revenues streamers have to spend on local Australian content, was due to come in on July 1 as part of the national cultural policy Revive, but the deadline came and went with no announcement on the terms. “Over the past week, I’ve been contacted by members around Australia who are concerned about where our industry now stands,” said Deaner, whose guild represents more than 500 local producers.

“Without a counterbalance in local works and robust commissioning, the changes that passed Parliament last week will mean that the Australian screen sector is on track to develop more as a service provider for Hollywood productions, who are encouraged here to take advantage of generous rebates, rather than grow our own local storytelling capabilities. Available data tells the same story.”

He was referring to a recent ACMA report that showed spending by the five major global streamers in 2022-23 on “Australian-related” or international screen projects increased in 2022-23 to A$452.9M ($306.6M) from A$333.4m the previous year, but that spending on Australian content by the same platforms dropped in 2022-23 to A$324.1M from A$335.1M the previous year.

“Right now, Australian audiences are finding it harder and harder to find their culture and heritage on screens,” said Deaner. The balance of government interventions in our industry should always lean towards Australians telling and producing Australian stories.”

Hollywood productions that have shot in Australia in recent years include Peacock’s Apples Never Fall and Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. Global streamers’ local productions include Netflix’s Heartbreak High reboot, Disney+‘s drama The Clearing, and Paramount’s Last King of the Cross.

Last month, the SPA addressed a government inquiry into the law amendments, saying that regulatory changes such as the increased Location Offset tax rebate would negatively impact the local business if laws regulating streamer investment were not implemented.

“Australia should be seeking to find some sort of balance or equilibrium between homegrown Australian screen projects and the big international projects attracted to work here by our tax incentives,” said Deaner.

This week, he added: “We deeply value our international and global producing partners and the benefits they bring to our shores – but we must ensure that our local industry is robust, resilient and prioritised regarding support measures.

“Our Australian screen industry should aim always to remain open to new entrants to ensure diversity and stories from the grassroots of society. Almost everyone gets their start in the local industry. That’s why local must always be our first, second and third priority as an industry, government and society.”

Streaming regulation remains a hot button topic around the world. Last week, the Motion Picture Association-Canada, which represents the major streamers north of the U.S., made a court filing demanding plans to introduce laws requiring them to pay for local news are shelved.

The issue boils down to how global streamers invest in the countries where they operate, and what that investment does to the local production communities. The likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ broadly see their significant spend on original and acquired content as offsetting need to prescribed rules, while many producers want guarantees that streamers will buy their content and not artificially inflate production costs by overpaying for crew and cast.


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