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Australia's Streaming Platforms Will Soon Be Required to Make More Local Movies and TV Shows

Under the nation's new National Cultural Policy, services like Netflix, Stan and Disney+ will be obliged to fund and screen more Aussie-made movies and TV shows.
By Sarah Ward
January 30, 2023
By Sarah Ward
January 30, 2023

Perhaps you enjoyed Netflix's Heartbreak High revival and can't wait for its second season. Maybe you're fond of Aunty Donna's Big Ol' House of Fun instead. Or, via Stan, Bump, Black Snow, True History of the Kelly Gang and Nitram might've sat among your homegrown highlights. When you're getting cosy on the couch streaming something filled with Australian faces, accents and places, these titles likely stood out, too, because they're a rarity. Aussie content comprises a tiny portion of digital platforms' catalogues, which has been the case since Netflix officially launched in Australia back in 2015; however, that's about to change thanks to Australia's new streaming content quotas.

First, some background: for Aussie commercial free-to-air television and pay TV stations, programming is subject to quotas requiring a certain contingent of each channel's content to hail from Australia. Such rules haven't applied to streaming services so far, though, even as more and more have popped up Down Under. So, for years, there's been a hefty to push to change the situation, placing the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and more under similar content rules. A green paper on the topic was published in late 2020, and a heap of well-known Aussie talents helped raise attention to the cause back in 2021. Now, the Australian Federal Government has confirmed that streaming content quotas are coming as part of its just-announced National Cultural Policy.

"It's been ten years since the last National Cultural Policy. During that time, online streaming platforms have taken off, but our Australian content obligations haven't. I know we can do better," said Minister for the Arts Tony Burke on social media.

Accordingly, the new $286-million National Cultural Policy locks in streaming content obligations, which it deems pivotal given there is "an increasing consumer trend away from broadcast and subscription television services to online subscription content".

"In 2020–21, for the first time, Australians were more likely to have watched an online subscription service than live or recorded free‑to‑air television," the policy continues — saying what plenty of us already know from our own viewing habits.

As a result, the Federal Government has committed to introducing "requirements for Australian screen content on streaming platforms to ensure continued access to local stories and content", and will do so by July 1, 2024. Beforehand, Burke will consult further with the industry, which'll be the focus for the first half of 2023, before legislation implementing the Aussie content quota for streaming platforms is put in place.

What the quota might look like in terms of hours of Australian shows and movies required, or percentages of streaming services' roster of content, hasn't yet been revealed. Still, the aim is clear: more Aussie series and films on all of those platforms constantly competing for your eyeballs, and in the near future.

Past proposals, including the Make It Australian campaign with backing from Blaze's Simon Baker, Hungry Ghosts' Bryan Brown and Justine Clarke, and Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie's Dead Aunt)'s Marta Dusseldorp — and more — have lobbied for all streaming services operating in Australia that have at least 500,000 subscribers to spend 20 percent of their local revenue on new Aussie dramas, documentaries and content for children.

Some streamers have put more cash into developing original local stories already, doing so voluntarily, but now they'll all be required to — and to boost an overall buffet of movies and TV shows that has noticeably lacked new Aussie content from the get-go in the process. Indeed, it took more than two years for Netflix to finally announce that it was making its first Australian series, Tidelands, after it launched on our shores.

For more information about Australia's new National Cultural Policy, head to the Australian Government's website.

Top image: Heartbreak High, Netflix.

Published on January 30, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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