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Netflix could be blocked in Australia over content quota

NETFLIX, Stan and other streaming services could be blocked from the Australian market if a certain quota for local is not maintained.

This is a concept currently being debated by the government in a comprehensive review of Australian and children’s screen content on subscription video on-demand services.

The review aims to provide policy options on the most effective way to support Australian content in the current digital landscape.

As it currently stands, Australia’s commercial free-to-air television networks are forced to offer 55 per cent local content on main channels between 6am and midnight.

This is further broken down with sub-quotas for Australian drama, documentary and children’s programs to be met.

Yet, there is currently no such legislation requiring streaming services like Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video to offer the same.

Conducted by the Department of Communications and the Arts, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and Screen Australia, the review hopes to develop reasonable local content quotas for streaming services.

“Over the past decade, fundamental changes have taken place in the media landscape, defined by the entry of new online services offering catch up TV, streaming, subscription video on demand and user generated video,” the Department of Communications wrote.

“While industry changes provide new opportunities for Australia’s world class screen practitioners to deliver their work to new audiences here and internationally, they have also challenged existing business models.

“In this rapidly changing environment, it is necessary to review our support and regulatory measures to ensure they remain fit for purpose in the digital era.”

The government body explained it is vital to our country that Australian stories are conceived, produced and distributed to domestic and international audiences.

“Content produced in Australia, or under Australian creative control, reflects and shapes our national identity, character and cultural diversity,” the department wrote.

“When exported, Australian content promotes an Australian view of the world and showcases our cultural and creative talents. It also delivers economic benefits and encourages tourism.”

Picnic at Hanging Rock is one such Australian show currently on Foxtel.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is one such Australian show currently on Foxtel. remantle Media Australia – Ben King

Foxtel has long been a supporter of homegrown content, with the subscription TV service maintaining a large investment in new Australian scripted, factual, lifestyle and entertainment programming.

At the launch of the company’s new streaming service, Foxtel Now, chief executive Peter Tongah said Foxtel has always been a proud Australian company and its content reflects this.

“I am proud to say that eight out of the top 10 non-sport programs on our platform in the last 12 months were our own local productions,” he said.

“All of us at Foxtel want to have our amazing local and international programs enjoyed by as many people as possible.”

Mr Tongah added the benefits of local content were wide spread.

“We invest in Australian content because we believe in the importance of telling Australian stories,” he said.

“We invest in people by employing thousands of Australians, directly and indirectly.”

Nine and Fairfax’s streaming service Stan declined to specifically comment on the matter, but said it had television shows No Activity, Wolf Creek and six local stand up comedy films that were commissioned by the service – with more Aussie content to come later this year.

Netflix is also yet to comment on the matter, but similar to Stan it has a small amount of Australian content licensed locally from the ABC and other networks, with Australian content also being distributed in foreign territories on the service.

Amazon Prime video are also yet to provide a response.

YouTube also holds responsibility to ensure Australian content, with the video-sharing website last year saying it invested in programs like the $A250,000 Skip Ahead initiative with Screen Australia, while also running regular creator training.

While setting quotas for online streaming service is uncharted territory for legislation, Australia could opt to follow the European Council, which is currently posing quotas of 30 per cent of local content on services in EU member states.

The review recommendations are expected to be provided to government by the end of the year.

Do you think streaming services need more Aussie content? Continue the conversation in the comments below or with Matthew Dunn on Facebook and Twitter.

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Netflix could be blocked in Australia over content quota