Seven Threatens To Boycott Content Quota Obligations

Seven Threatens To Boycott Content Quota Obligations
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Content quotas for Australian FTA broadcasters are again in the headlines, after Seven West Media threatened to cancel production of children’s content and Australian dramas.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Seven CEO James Warburton labelled the existing quota on children’s content as “not a sustainable one for us”.

“We’ve been clear for a long time that the children’s content quota was not a sustainable one for us and the wider commercial television industry in Australia,” Warburton said. “The substantial cost in producing this content, which in some instances is watched by such a low number of viewers that it falls under ratings measurement thresholds, further handicaps us against unregulated, foreign digital platforms.

“We remain in compliance with children’s quotas but it is clear, and has been for some time, that we need immediate action not more reviews and delays.”

Currently, the Australian Content Standard 2016 sets out minimum annual sub-quotas for Australian drama, documentary and children’s programs that all commercial free-to-air television broadcasters must meet.

There has been growing pressure on the government to update these regulations, which are seen by many as a disadvantage to FTA broadcasters, which are now competing with the likes of Netflix and YouTube.

For example, Netflix, which is believed to have upwards of 11.5 million Australian subscribers, only commissioned its second-ever Australian drama in August 2019.

A study by RMIT recently found Australian content accounts for just 1.7 per cent of the material found on Netflix.

It has widely been suggested the government will update these regulations in light of the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.

The ACCC initially called for a review into whether these regulations need to be extended to digital platforms or removed altogether in July last year.

As part of ‘Phase One’ of the government’s response to the report, the ACCC’s Digital Platforms Branch has been instructed to assess the need for content obligations.

“We encourage the Government to move quickly to provide certainty to industry and put in place a new framework for content that better reflects commercial realities and the changed viewing patterns of Australian audiences,” Warburton said last year.

Network 10 CEO Paul Anderson is also on record as saying, “on Free to Air content regulation, the issues are clear and the answers are already there. We just have to get cracking and get it done.”

 

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