Final Report: Economic and cultural value of Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services

Wednesday, 27 Mar 2019

Courtney Barnett performs at Laneway Festival 2019 (photo: Aoife O'Sullivan)

APRA AMCOS welcomes the final music-related recommendations of the Senate Committee report into the economic and cultural value of Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services.

APRA AMCOS represents the rights of over 100,000 Australian and New Zealand songwriters, composers and publishers, administering certain rights on their behalf both locally and globally.

The report’s recommendations around local content benchmarks for streaming music services and the importance of strengthening the Code to support local content on commercial radio stations is welcome.

The Senate Committee report comes at a critical time for the music industry. Australian music is more popular than ever before both domestically and internationally. As well as this jurisdictions around the world are reviewing the copyright and regulatory frameworks that support the creation of local content.

As outlined in our submission to the inquiry, we re-iterate our call for a world-first benchmark for all locally curated streaming playlists in Australia and New Zealand. We suggest a reasonable benchmark of not less than 20 per cent of local content on these locally curated playlists measured over an agreed period of time.

A benchmark would also recognise the positive work of the local curation teams of Australian and New Zealand based digital music services and work to increase the profile and recognition of great local music to local audiences.

It is very difficult to argue in 2019 that local music is not as compelling as that produced by international competitors. Aside from the early 1980’s, it used to be that there was a wait of many years between Australian artists breaking internationally, from the Little River Band (1977) to AC/DC (1981), Air Supply (1981), Men At Work (1981), INXS (1988) Savage Garden (1998), Gotye (2012), Iggy Azalea (2014), Sia (2016).

The profile and growth of Australian music over the last few years has been simply amazing to watch and support. From Sia to Courtney Barnett, Vance Joy to Flume, Rüfüs Du Sol, Alex Lahey, Alison Wonderland, Middle Kids and Tash Sultana are just some of the Australian artists who have written, recorded and appeared live on stages and screens across the world.

Australia’s music industry stands alongside the powerhouses of Australian exports - food, agriculture, wine, tourism. Just last month at SXSW - an international industry conference for the film, interactive media, and music industries that takes place in Texas each year - there were 55 Australian artists showcased as part of our SOUNDS AUSTRALIA export program at Australia House.

As we outlined in our testimony to the Committee, ensuring Australian content remains easily accessible to all Australians helps to develop and reflect a sense of Australian identity, character and cultural diversity. In particular, our local songs are a vital means of expressing our ideas, perspectives, values and identity and equally a means of projecting that voice to our fellow Australians and the world.

The existing quota levels for commercial radio broadcasters, which are already low by comparative international standards, means we advocate in the strongest possible terms that the Australian content requirements that currently apply to the various broadcast sectors be neither removed nor decreased. In fact, given the talent we see, they should be easily achieved.

However, compliance with radio quotas needs to be considered very carefully to ensure the Code remains relevant. APRA AMCOS’ key concern is that under the existing Code radio broadcasters are able to self-categorise which format they are for the purposes of determining which Australian music quota applies to their service.

We question why the format of a service ought to be determinative of the applicable Australian music quota percentage for that service. APRA AMCOS proposes these broadcasters be subject to the full 25% Australian music quota which is not only achievable, but is also internationally reasonable. In the alternative, APRA AMCOS also submitted that there would be improved transparency and compliance with the format-specific Australian Music quotas if the various categories of format service were updated, simplified, reduced in number and defined in the Code.

APRA AMCOS also believes that screen content quotas not only provide economic and cultural benefits to the television production industry but to symbiotic sectors including marketing, technical and, importantly, music. Where television quotas or commitments exist, notably in the commercial free-to-air sector and the government broadcasters, there is a commensurate use of Australian composers’ and artists’ music.

As well as this, we support the development of an industry strategy to ensure greater collaboration across the creative industries to explore more engagement of local songwriters and composers for screen, gaming and other relevant online content.

APRA AMCOS’ strong view is that local content requirements is critical priority for the Australian Government and must be a key area of investigation and policy development following the election of a new parliament.

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