Streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube could soon be forced to show local content, bringing them into line with free-to-air television channels.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has indicated he might mandate the rules to ensure a more level playing field between online services and traditional media.
As he prepares to respond to a major ACCC inquiry into digital platforms by the end of this year, Mr Fletcher says he accepts the need to “harmonise” media rules.
“Today, the free-to-air networks have an obligation to show a certain amount of Australian content. They’ve got to pay to produce that or acquire that,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
“But streaming platforms like Netflix or YouTube don’t have such obligations, even though they’re capturing a huge number of eyeballs in the Australian market.”
There are also different rules around advertising on free-to-air television, as compared to the requirements imposed on YouTube and Netflix.
“The call for harmonisation is something that in principle we have indicated we accept,” Mr Fletcher said.
Ensuring global tech companies pay their fair share of tax outside their home bases in the US and elsewhere was not covered in the Australian competition watchdog’s inquiry.
But releasing its 600 page report and 23 recommendations on Friday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was an issue the government remained “very much focused on”.
Opposition communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland indicated Labor was broadly supportive of tightening the tax rules imposed on the tech titans.
“I don’t think you’ll find an Australian who is against the idea of everyone paying their fair share of tax,” Ms Rowland told Sky News.
“These enormous multinational companies who are making substantial profits from Australian consumers, I think it’s right to expect that their contribution to Australia should be commensurate and should reflect the value that they’re getting from Australian consumers.”
The government is working on a digital tax through the G20 and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Australia and others will need to tread carefully, after France faced the wrath of Donald Trump, having gone it alone with a tax aimed at US technology companies.
An angry US president said France could expect “substantial reciprocal action” for its “foolishness”.
“If anybody taxes them, it should be their home country, the USA,” Mr Trump tweeted.
“I’ve always said American wine is better than French wine!”
Tax aside, the ACCC has unravelled the growing complexity of the digital world and the power the likes of Google and Facebook both enjoy.
The government will be seeking feedback to the commission’s recommendations over the next three months, aiming to make tech giants more accountable and transparent.