What will a streaming service levy accomplish in Ireland?

Jack Redmond

The proposals for a ‘content’ levy by the Government and various Irish entertainment groups is intent on increasing funding for the Irish film and television industry through collecting funds from already existing international streaming providers.

This potential levy collection would include such companies as Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and other content streaming services and broadcasters providing their subscription services to Irish viewers. But what will a streaming service levy accomplish in Ireland?

The Joint Creative Audiovisual group members explain in their written proposal to the Oireachtas Media Committee that such funding “[could] be used to help finance premium Irish productions which would help to create economic stimulus within the sector, and help put Irish storytelling back in the global content market”.

While this proposal by the audio-visual group members is exercised in an effort to reinvigorate the Irish film and television sector, this proposition fails to garner the unifying venture or sympathetic lenity of the public and instead appears more as an intrusion on the modern qualities of streaming services and the respected choice of the viewer typically found in mainstream and commercial entertainment.

Ironically, many Irish films were recently nominated for the 2023 Oscars. Such Irish nominations intrinsically disputes the statement that Irish storytelling needs explicit help putting content “back in the global content market”. This indirectly demonstrates that many Irish movies have had success or appeal internationally, regardless of the Oscars validation or more importantly overt public regulatory aid.

The Irish Times reported “that a levy of 3 per cent on annual revenue could generate annual funds of €25 million for the sector”. Of course, this additional levy will be foisted on the viewers of such noted streaming services in Ireland and not the streaming companies themselves. This practise of financially targeting non-viewers of publicly funded content is already practised with the license fee, but will inevitably be enhanced should a content levy be imposed.

Of course, profitable funding for the Irish movie and television creative industry should be encouraged. But if some Irish content is publicly funded regardless of quality, the creative industry providing content by choice or subscription will suffer as it can’t compete with mass spending by government. Funding the film and television industry through levy’s and taxes is not appealing or sustainable to the public and the ambitions of organic creative content.

More creative Irish content should be encouraged and further developed, but funding through tax incentivises, partnerships or more sponsorships seems like a more respectable enterprise to an eager audience.

So while divided funding between various Irish film and television projects overseen by Screen Ireland (Fís Éireann) would be a form of virtuous charity – however compulsory – higher levels of funding will only achieve fiscal stature, but will not guarantee better quality or popularity.

A rejection of an imposed content levy as a solution, is not a dismissal of the efforts and achievements of the Irish film and television industry or future content, but a content levy shows little regard for industry competition and the viewers of cinema and television in Ireland and internationally.

Jack Redmond

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