The Irish audiovisual sector will lose out on nearly €100 million of funding if the so-called “Netflix levy” is not up and running until 2026, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
The Government has proposed a content levy on streaming services and broadcasters with 80 per cent of the funds generated going to the independent sector. The fund will be managed by Screen Ireland (Fís Éireann). It is proposed to introduce it in the third or last quarter of 2026.
Representatives of the Irish screen industry estimate that a levy of 3 per cent on annual revenue could generate annual funds of €25 million for the sector.
Speaking on behalf of the Joint Creative Audiovisual Sector Group, Sarah Glennane said the implementation of the levy needs to receive “due attention and urgency”.
She told the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media that many European countries were already pressing ahead with such levies.
“It is critically important that Ireland does not lag behind and lose out. We see the content levy fund as a significant driver of international expansion for original Irish stories,” she said. The group represents all the major players in Irish television including RTÉ, Virgin Media and TG4.
Former Fís Eireann/Screen Ireland chief executive James Hickey said a content levy would be critical in supporting “high end” productions in Ireland like TV drama and animation.
Mr Hickey, who is a member of Screen Producers Ireland, said Irish TV drama struggles to get made because of a lack of funding. If a creative levy is not introduced soon, the Irish audiovisual sector will struggle to compete with other countries in Eof urope, he warned.
“We will then fall behind. A huge amount of money goes out of the country to services that are not even based in Ireland. Only if we get them to contribute back will we get them to support Irish content.
“If we have the levy and if it is paid to a funding agency, and the funding agency ensures that the projects support Irish creative talent, then you will have a virtuous circle.”
Irish Music Rights Organisation (IMRO) chief executive Victor Finn suggested that musicians should also be able to access the content levy.
“This will ensure Irish music performers, creatives and musicians, amongst others, could continue to work at their craft with compensation for their work and additional outlets to share their music,” he told the committee.
IMRO has suggested there be an Ireland Media Player which would be a central destination for all radio, television, music, podcasts and press in essence a “global Irish media player,” he told the committee. It would be a global portal and “shop window” where viewers interested in Irish content would go in the first instance.
This would be augmented by a national music strategy with a specific remit to maximise the export of Irish music. The Section 481 funding should be extended to music projects, he said.
IMRO director of media licensing Lisa Ní Choisdealbha said the Irish radio sector had already demonstrated that it could provide a portal for Irish content.
The Irish Radio Player featured RTÉ and all the independent radio stations and is available globally without any geoblocking. “They have come together to agree on technology and compete on content,” she said.