The free-to-air TV networks could be forced to pay into a local content fund to help promote locally produced TV shows as part of the latest round of negotiations for the media reforms package.
The legislation is due to be debated in the senate today, however, it’s unclear if the government has been able to sway a senate party to back the reforms. The Xenophon Team, Greens and One Nation have all inferred they’d back a watered down version of the reforms pitched by the federal government
However, the latest turnaround, reported in The Australian Financial Review this morning has said the minor parties may support the reforms if Seven, Nine and Ten are slugged a “local content fund” to support local TV production. Taxpayers would also have to contribute to the fund. At present, all broadcasters are required to make a minimum amount of Australian-made shows to meet their TV licence requirements.
It appears the Greens are driving the idea behind a content fund which would see broadcasters have to invest a percentage of revenues into local drama, news and kids shows over a set number of hours a week.
Already the free to airs have argued that they are forced to make a number of hours of TV a week that attracts a very small audience. Kids programming has been particularly called out as expensive to make and attracting few eyeballs for the effort.
The Greens have shown renewed interest in supporting the media reforms following threats the government may side with One Nation who would want significant cuts to the ABC’s and SBS’s budget in return for its support.
Nick Xenophon and his party look like the federal government’s greatest ally in its push to secure its media reforms, which all have strong backing from the industry generally.
However, Xenophon also wants tax breaks added to the reforms to support smaller media players (namely those with revenues less that $30 million annually) to help protect journalists and staff. Xenophon is also keen for the likes of Google and Facebook to pay more for the free content it takes from Australia’s media players.
“The media reforms won’t happen without strong tax breaks that let more journalists and content providers be employed,” Senator Xenophon said, his comments quoted in the AFR.
“These proposals make for a balanced approach and are important to the long-term viability of the media industry.”