Free TV slams government for last minute Netflix funding

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 15 April 2019

Australian TV industry body Free TV has come out against the federal government's last minute decision to make government funding available to streaming platforms such as Netflix.

The body, which represents Australia's free-to-air broadcasters, has fired back at Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, who late last week elected to changed policy to allow streaming businesses to access production cost tax breaks.

Free TV CEO Bridget Fair expressed the group's "dismay and frustration" over the decision, labelling the announcement as "outrageous".

She says it has been six years since the Coalition was elected and, following the Australian Content Review in 2017, Free TV is still awaiting further "meaningful reform".

"After two years, Minister Fifield has seen fit to announce a single initiative five minutes before the commencement of the caretaker period that benefits foreign multinational streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime," Fair says.

“The government should be looking at how broadcasters can be assisted to continue the important role they play in the Australian production industry, not making piecemeal decisions that advantage unregulated competitors on digital platforms."

Fifield revealed that streaming platforms in Australia would be given access to offsets for post, digital and visual effects and location, with 30% and 16.5% refundable offsets, respectively. These will only be available for content filmed and produced locally.

While Free TV has elected to express its frustrations at the likes of Amazon and Netflix receiving funding, they are not alone. Both Ten and Nine have their own interests in streaming.

Nine's fully-owned Stan and Ten's All Access platforms will both be viable to access these offsets.

Fair says commercial television broadcasters are the source of more Australian production than "anyone else in this country" and that it is "deeply disappointing" to see the government back international content providers.

"It defies logic to prop up unregulated foreign streaming platforms with government funding while commercial broadcasters remain saddled with a range of content obligations that no longer reflect how Australians are consuming content and are in urgent need of a complete overhaul," Fair says.

“The Australian Content Review conducted in 2017 was supposed to look at how we should update these outdated regulatory settings. We are still waiting for the Government to provide a meaningful response.”

Nine, Seven, Ten, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo and Win are all members of Free TV.

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