Hugh Marks on Government’s plans to control tech giants

• Nine boss thinks industry can work without content quotas

Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks has joined his TV colleagues in praising the Government response to the ACCC report.

“This is a much needed and timely announcement from the Government in response to the recommendations that had been made by the ACCC as part of their digital platforms inquiry,” said Marks in a statement yesterday. “It provides a clear timeline and platform for our industry to be able to engage with the social media platforms on a basis we ultimately believe will be a win not only for our industry and the people that work in it, but the social platforms as well.”

Speaking to Mediaweek later in the day, Marks aid: “A framework that encourages us to reach agreement as an industry is the right way to go. If we can’t agree the Government will look at a mandatory code which is great.”

Marks said he thought the tech giants would work with industry. “They know there is upside for them to work cooperatively with us. But having the ACCC watching over that is very important.”

The Government also said yesterday it would support determining the extent of Australian content obligations on free-to-air television broadcasters (including drama and children’s content), and whether there should be Australian content obligations on subscription video-on-demand services.

Marks commented: “I am a fan of less quotas than more. If you look at Stan for example it already commissions a significant amount of local content as you will see in their summer schedule this year.

“Quotas are often blunt and ineffective instruments. But the notion that there should be harmonisation with whatever burden used to be carried [by FTA makes sense] and everyone should contribute.

“The quotas generally reflect what we would do anyway, with the exception of children’s content as that content is not watched on FTA television. Frankly it is a waste of our resources, the government’s resources and the tax payer’s money to make content that kids aren’t watching.

“In other areas I think we are well in excess of quotas.”

Marks added there should be recognition of the different forms of drama that is being made. “The market was different when the original quota rules were set in place. With drama now you have to be a lot more competitive on an international basis. Sometimes spending more on a show might be the best option for everyone to guarantee success. But a quota system based only on the number of hours is a blunt instrument that may be ineffective today.”

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