Entertainment TV Free-to-air television declares war on Netflix
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Free-to-air television declares war on Netflix

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Netflix is operating free of rules that apply to Australian commercial TV channels, according to research commissioned by Free TV Australia.

The industry body has used its report to campaign for a relaxing of the rules commercial broadcasters must comply with, arguing the local industry adds value to the economy.

“To maintain the health of the sector it is critical that the government and Parliament act urgently to unshackle commercial free-to-air broadcasters so we can continue to deliver these services for free to all Australian across all platforms,” Free TV chairman Harold Mitchell said.

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He said “outdated rules and regulations that don’t apply to anyone else” were crippling commercial broadcasters.

“This is unsustainable. Governments and the community can’t afford to be complacent about this. Google, Apple, Netflix and all the other global players who are now entering our market are not going to employ 15,000 Australians, or invest over $1.5 billion in Australian content annually,” he said.

Free TV’s report lists the economic benefits from the local industry, which has a regulated quota of Australian produced content, which video-on-demand brands don’t have.

The report concluded commercial broadcasters add $3.2 billion to the economy and employ 7200 people directly, but retain $300 million in value each year.

One of the rules Free TV appears to want unshackling from is content regulation which forces broadcasters to create Australian drama, documentaries, children’s shows and so on, Queensland University of Technology media specialist Dr Ben Goldsmith said.

“Without the imposition of Australian content regulations, Free TV is absolutely right, they are playing by completely different rules,” Dr Goldsmith said.

“But it doesn’t necessarily mean that the content regulations should be removed from free-to-air broadcasters. The argument could be just as well that they should be imposed on Netflix.”

He said it was entirely possible that Netflix would produce shows in Australia but that it wasn’t clear whether they would do so at the same cost as commercial broadcasters, or whether they would do so if they weren’t required to by regulation.

The Federal Government is looking at changes to media regulations that could include changes to rules introduced in the 20th century.

In March Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull suggested scrapping media ownership rules which ban an organisation from owning more than two out of the three branches of media – TV, radio or print.

Another rule on the chopping block is the reach rule, or the limit on audience share for any commercial organisation.

But commercial broadcasters gain from other rules that protect them from new players. The anti-siphoning list includes sports events that free-to-air broadcasters get first rights to.

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