‘Netflix levy’ needed to fund Irish TV production – Dáil committee

Bill should create role of online safety commissioner to regulate big tech – report

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime should face a new levy, an Oireachtas committee is to recommend. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime should face a new levy, an Oireachtas committee is to recommend. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

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Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime should face a new levy to pay for a fund for independent productions, an Oireachtas committee is to recommend in a report to be published on Tuesday.

And an independent online safety commissioner with powers to police harmful content on the internet should be part of new legislation that will see tech companies, social media and streaming services regulated for the first time, according to the report.

The Oireachtas media and culture committee has been examining new draft laws intended to transform the way online and broadcast media is regulated. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is likely to be brought forward by Minister for Arts Catherine Martin in the coming weeks.

The committee received written evidence from 61 stakeholders and held 15 oral hearings in its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, which will usher in a new era of regulation for social media giants and new streaming services.

Its report recommends that a new media commission should have its independence and resources guaranteed and that the provisions for an online safety commissioner should be made explicit in the Bill.

“The committee recommends that the media commission and the online safety commissioner are satisfactorily resourced, with the level of staffing and expertise adequate to allow optimal operational capacity,” it says.

“The committee recommends that, within the legislative package, no possible source of infringement of independence should be placed upon the media commission or upon the online safety commissioner,” the report says.

Child protections

In addition, it recommends a levy on streaming services to fund independent productions, and says there should be no prohibition of independent news and current affairs programmes seeking funding.

The report also recommends “a moratorium on advertising to children online, including, at the very minimum, advertisements of junk food, alcohol, high fat, salt, sugar foods, and gambling.”

It also says that “any form of profiling or tracking children’s data” should be prohibited.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne, who is a member of the committee, said that the Bill was one of the most important pieces of legislation that the Government would introduce in its term of office. “The era of self-regulation by social media companies has to come to an end,” he said.

Social media companies such as Facebook are facing pressure from governments and regulators in many countries as they seek to limit harmful online content.