Irish screen industry calls for content levy on streaming and pay TV

Sector could lose out on potential €25m a year and fall behind rest of EU, webinar told

The Irish film and TV sector is in danger of falling behind the rest of the EU if it does not introduce a content levy on streaming and pay TV services, industry representatives have said.

At a webinar entitled “What can the content levy do for local film and TV production?”, attendees heard there was a unique opportunity to introduce the levy, which had the potential to deliver €25 million a year to the sector.

Industry representatives have called on the Government to bring in the levy, which would be imposed on streaming video services. The video-on-demand services, which are mainly based outside Ireland, receive an estimated €600 million a year from Irish subscribers. However, industry experts say very little of that money is invested back into local programming.

The levy would also bring Ireland in line with other EU states, according to representatives of a joint audiovisual sectoral group, with France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands introducing a content levy or investment obligation. Members of the group include RTÉ, TG4, Screen Producers Ireland (SPI), Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, Writers Guild of Ireland, Screen Composers Guild of Ireland and Animation Ireland.

Amendments

The Government is currently debating the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, which will allow the Government to introduce the levy in Ireland if amendments proposed by the industry are included. So far, that bid has failed.

"With a 3 per cent levy, there would be an annual fund of at least €25 million a year," said James Hickey, SPI board member and former head of Screen Ireland.

“Indecon reported that this would deliver €100 million of production activity annually. That could be at least five TV drama series and five TV animation series a year as well as more feature films and documentary series.”

The webinar looked at the potential for the content levy, and heard from European experts about the impact of the levy on home-produced content.

"Ireland is producing some exceptional creative talent, achieving international recognition in audiovisual storytelling in the form of composers, directors, writers and producers," said Sarah Glennane, chief executive of the Screen Composers Guild of Ireland.

“With the investment delivered from a content levy, these creators can bring their success to Irish-produced stories made for global audiences, return lucrative creative IP and royalties to our screen industries and help to provide opportunities for the next generation of creators to be able to stay and grow sustainable careers from Ireland. There is a strong culture of entrepreneurship in our screen creators; they want to be able to bring their talent to productions which are produced in Ireland by Irish companies.”