The recently released Convergence Review is an interesting read. One of its 3 areas of focus is devoted to ensuring that our society continues to ‘benefit’ from locally produced content. The executive summary argues:
The Review proposes a ‘uniform content scheme’ to ensure that Australian content continues to be shown on our screens. The uniform content scheme will require qualifying content service enterprises, with significant revenues from television-like content, to invest a percentage of their revenue in Australian drama, documentary and children’s programs. Alternatively, a content service enterprise will be able to contribute a percentage of its revenue to a ‘converged content production fund’ for reinvestment in traditional and innovative Australian content.
Not all content service enterprises will be required to contribute under the uniform content scheme. To qualify for the scheme, content service enterprises will need to meet both ‘scale’ and ‘service’ criteria.
The scale and service criteria operate to exclude Google/YouTube etc. One may assume that this rule was developed for pragmatic reasons.
Some are upset by this. The academic instinct to regulate has led for some to call for these companies to be brought into the regulatory mix. The argument seems to distill down to “we regulate TV, so let’s regulate everything.”
After all, what constitutes Australian content in 2012? Is it a drama like The Slap or Underbelly, or the musings of Natalie Tran, whose video blog on YouTube has clocked up more than 400 million views?
If it’s both, should YouTube and other online platforms be subject to the same policy imposed on TV?
As Google, Facebook and YouTube take viewers from TV and other old media, they become part of a debate about what value we place on being Australian and whether or not we think the creation and promotion of distinctly Australian voices in the newer media a worthwhile pursuit
I can’t imagine a more specious argument for regulation.
Surely rather than design a rule to exclude YouTube, we should learn from its business model. There is simply no need to regulate Google so that it “invests a percentage of its revenue in Australian drama” – that is exactly what its business model is predicated on.
Surely AdWords achieves the exact purpose of the intended rules, and does it without the dead arm of regulation. GoogleTV will do even more. Other companies like ShoDogg are developing content distribution platforms that promise to do the same to video as Spotify is doing for music. No doubt Facebook will make headway into the market too.
The entire business model for entertainment is evolving and content makers will be king. Isn’t that why we are building the NBN? Regulation will not be able to protect bad content, and Australian content makers better get used to it. Regulation will just slow down the inevitable adjustment.