View Finder: No, Netflix won’t be blocked over local content quotas

Nick Broughall 23 June 2017 NEWS

Original wolf creek

But something is probably going to have to change.

Well, it certainly makes for a good headline, but the idea that the Government will try to block Netflix over local content quotas is laughable. This past week, the government has started debating the local quota laws that apply to traditional TV broadcast media like free-to-air and Pay TV, and trying to decide how that can be applied to streaming platforms like Netflix and Stan.

Currently, free-to-air channels need to show 55% Australian programming between the hours of 6am and midnight, with a further breakdown of drama, documentaries and kid's programming. Needless to say, the laws haven't kept up with the change of technology, so no such quotas apply to digital streaming services.

To remedy this, ACMA and the Department of Communications are conducting a review into local content quotas, to take into account the shifting technologies.

"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. Australian viewing habits have also changed as new technology offers more flexibility in how content is consumed," a statement from the Communications Department reads.

"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."

Make no mistake, Australian content is going to be an important part of the ongoing success of streaming platforms. We've already seen both Stan and Netflix are committed to making it happen, with Stan's No Activity and Wolf Creek series both doing really well and Netflix's upcoming Tidelands confirmed for global release. Netflix is also on the books as co-producer for several ABC shows like Glitch, distributing the show globally while the ABC gets first run in Australia.

It has been fairly slow going so far, and legislation around original content quotas may increase the amount of local content on offer. But it won't necessarily speed up original content – in fact it could even slow it down. If an international giant like Netflix suddenly needs to provide 30% (hypothetically, of course) Australian content in order to operate in Australia, surely it's more likely to spend money on rights to older Aussie programs than invest in new content as a quicker (and likely cheaper) way to achieve the same end goal?

Then there's the discussion of consequences. The idea that the government would "block" a service like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video for not offering enough local content is a joke, if for nothing more than the idea that the government can effectively block anything on the internet. If the battle over piracy has shown us anything, it's that any form of site blocking is ridiculously easy to get around.

Everyone wants to see more Aussie content on streaming platforms, but the government would be better placed in assisting streaming services to achieve those goals through incentives and investment in the arts, rather than arbitrary restrictions.

Trailer of the week: Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

Wet Hot American Summer was one of the dumbest shows I ever watched on Netflix, but I'd binge-watched the whole season before I even realised. So yeah, I'll be binge-watching the incredibly ridiculous looking second season, 10 Years Later.

Netflix has also dropped a trailer for To the Bone, an original film about a girl's struggle with anorexia starring Keanu Reeves. Is it just me or does John Wick look extremely convincing as a doctor?

Each week, View Finder rounds up the latest news in TV and movie streaming in Australia.

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