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Global Screen Bodies Demand Robust Streaming Regulation

A collection of international screen bodies are urging governments to enact robust streamer regulation.

Twenty influential screen production organizations, representing tens of thousands of companies in total, have issued a statement demanding lawmakers protect producers and local content.

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The joint statement (read it in full below) from production bodies from Canada, Australasia, Europe and Latin America lays out several guiding “principles,” the most important of which relates to growth opportunities and independent IP ownership.

It also calls for governments to address how content is considered, the importance of local stories, financial arrangements, up-skilling and approaches to market failure.

Notably, today’s statement calls on government frameworks to ensure a “majority” of streamer investment should be “through projects where IP is under the control of independent screen businesses.” This would ensure indies “remain strong and sustainable” and able to invest in, develop and produce new IP that taps into “a nation’s own unique cultural heritage.”

It also added that, “Government has a role to address market failure and any imbalance in commercial bargaining power.”

Streaming regulation is set to be among the biggest talking points of this year, with laws forthcoming in countries such as Australia and Canada, as debate rages around the world. Streaming residuals and compensation were key talking points in the U.S. writer and actor strikes last year.

On one side, producers and indies want to ensure global streamers are duty-bound to invest in local content, while on the other the likes of Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ consider their current strategies beneficial to local markets and reject the need for state intervention.

Several writing and producer sources from territories where government legislation is ongoing have talked about how commissioning has ground to a halt, as streamers wait to see what is demanded of them in law.

When international streamers originally entered the original content game, they would trade taking global rights for hefty production fees, and this can still be the case. However, with many streamers now focused on profitability over subscription acquisition, spend has been cut in many circumstances and producers have grown increasingly concerned about how services are operating in their countries.

Sources in Canada and Australia have told Deadline in recent weeks that they are concerned some countries’ favorable tax rebate schemes and production funding initiatives are being used to film U.S. projects without any major benefit to the local creative sector.

Streamers argue they have opened up a new investment line into multiple territories and spent millions on originals and acquisitions, and do not need regulation. For example, Netflix’s acquisition of CBC and Pop’s Schitt’s Creek helped the Canadian comedy become a worldwide hit.

In countries such as Denmark, Spain and France, streamers are already required to pay levies of around 5% of total revenues into funds for local content. In Australia, content quotas are set to be introduced to bring streamers as part of the government’s Revive cultural policy, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting in November that systems based on expenditure and revenue are being considered for the final proposal.

“In Australia and many countries around the world, independent screen businesses are facing tough new market dynamics brought about by the global audience shift to digital streaming platforms,” Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia, which is one of the signatories, said in a statement today.

“Our members have been telling us for some time that without intervention their financial viability and future existence cannot be taken for granted. As this global statement shows, Australian producers are not alone in this fight for survival. We welcome this expression of solidarity from around the world.”

Later in his statement, Deaner waded in on rights ownership, saying: “Our creative IP is what the screen industry produces. Ownership of it is the ‘value-add’ to our industry from making screen stories. It’s important that the screen IP created by Australians, stays in the hands of Australian businesses and is not lost to mostly global streaming platforms.

“You only have to look at the global phenomenon of the Barbie movie, which is all based on successfully leveraging the IP in a created character, to see the huge value of IP ownership.”

“This is about ensuring local stories are discovered, developed and told on screen, and not lost to a massive, singular global content industry,” said Reynolds Mastin, President and CEO of Canada’s CMPA.

“The number of organizations from around the world that have signed on to this initiative is a vivid demonstration that the issues faced by independent producers here in Canada, are also confronting domestic producers in numerous other countries.

“On the one hand this underscores the significant scope of the challenges faced by domestic production sectors around the world, but on the other it provides a hopeful path forward; a path to work collaboratively across borders to develop common solutions that will bolster individual national sectors, while also creating a more vibrant global industry.”

Alexandra Lebret, Managing Director of the pan-continental European Producers Club said the need to regulate IP ownership was “not just a European issue,” but a “worldwide imperative.”

“This is because of the market pressures from the worldwide digital platforms and the increased vertical integration of our industry,” she added.

“Europe, through the EU Commission has a fantastic opportunity to show world leadership by bringing forward the first IP regulation in the digital platforms market. This new regulation would allow Europe to protect European assets in the hands of those who develop and produce those works, allowing European companies to grow and scale their operations, and for the European creative industries to flourish.”

The statement was signed by the SPA, several pan-European production bodies including the EPC, Italy’s Associazione Produttori Audiovisivi, Association Québécoise de la Production Médiatique and the Canadian Media Producers Association in Canada, the Ibero-American Federation of Film and Audiovisual Producers in Latin America, Germany’s Produzentenverband, The Screen Production and Development Association in New Zealand and Screen Producers Ireland (see the full list below).

Producer bodies in several countries where there is currently no legislative framework, such as the UK, did not sign the statement.

Read the full statement here

Together we represent thousands of screen industry businesses and share a commitment to securing regulation from our respective governments that will ensure that our industry continues to both be sustainable and maintains our nation’s cultural sovereignty.

To help achieve this, government regulation of digital streaming platforms should be guided by the following principles:

  • Local content has both significant cultural and economic importance and is a strategic national asset.

  • Local audiences should have access to a broad range of new local stories across all the platforms they are using.

  • All platforms that derive financial benefit from conducting business in the local market should financially contribute, proportionally, to the creation of new local content for the benefit of local audiences.

  • To meet audience expectations, there is a need to maintain and support a healthy screen sector (development, production (including post-production), distribution), that delivers employment, economic activity, industry upskilling, exports, and growth opportunities.

  • Government has a role to address market failure and any imbalance in commercial bargaining power in the creation and delivery of quality new local screen content.

  • Independent screen businesses (SMEs) are critical to achieving this cultural and economic objective.

  • There is significant scope for growth in existing levels of production, investment, employment, commissioned content hours and exports, provided fit for purpose regulation, that protects local cultural assets, is in place.

  • Independent screen businesses should own and/or retain control of the intellectual property (IP), and rights in their work, including the right to financially participate in the success generated by their work on a platform, created as part of a nation’s own unique cultural heritage.

  • Any government regulated investment framework should specify that the majority of this investment should be fulfilled through projects where IP is under the control of independent screen businesses. This principle will assist businesses to remain strong and sustainable, thereby enhancing their capacity to invest in the development and production of new IP.

This statement is supported by:

  • AECINE – Asociación de productoras de Cine Independiente (Spain)

  • Animation in Europe (Europe)

  • AnimFrance (France)

  • APA – Associazione Produttori Audiovisivi (Italy)

  • APCA – Associação Producers Cinema Audiovisual (Portugal)

  • APFC – Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada (Canada)

  • APIT – Associação de Produtores Independentes de Televisão (Portugal)

  • AQPM – Association québécoise de la production médiatique (Canada)

  • CEPI – European Audiovisual Production Association (EU)

  • CMPA – Canadian Media Producers Association (Canada)

  • EPC – The European Producers Club (EU)

  • FIPCA – Ibero-American Federation of Film and Audiovisual Producers (LatAM)

  • FPS – Association of Slovene Film Producers (Slovenia)

  • PATE – Asociación de Productores Audiovisual Independientes (Spain)

  • Produzentenverband (Germany)

  • SPA – Screen Producers Australia (AU)

  • SPADA – The Screen Production and Development Association (NZ)

  • SPI – Screen Producers Ireland (Ireland)

  • UPFF+ – Union of Francophone Producers of Films & Series (Belgium)

  • USPA – Union Syndicale de la Production Audiovisuelle (EU)

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