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“Irish Film & TV Sector in Danger of Falling Behind EU Colleagues;” Joint group highlighting potential impact of Content Levy
12 May 2022 : News Desk
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Representatives of a Joint Audio Visual sectoral group that includes RTÉ, TG4, Screen Producers Ireland, Screen Directors Guild of Ireland, Writers Guild of Ireland, Screen Composers Guild of Ireland and Animation Ireland are calling on the government to urgently introduce a Content Levy on PayTV and VOD services, in line with other European States.

The group say that the content levy, which would deliver €25M a year to the Irish film and television sector, at no cost to the Irish taxpayer, will help Irish companies tell Irish stories to the world. The legislation that will allow the Government to introduce the levy in Ireland, the Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill, is currently being debated in the Oireachtas. 

Members of the industry gathered online to hear from European counterparts of the exponential benefit of the levy to the creation of locally made film and tv content. At the webinar, it was said that Ireland is now in danger of being left behind as other European countries introduce a Content Levy on international PayTV and VOD services. France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands are among the countries who have introduced a content levy or investment obligation. As such,Ireland is seen as an outlier in introducing them.

At the webinar, “What can the Content Levy do for local film and TV Production”, attendees heard that Irish audiences pay 600M euro every year to such service companies, most of which are outside the country. These services contribute little to the development and production of Irish stories on screen by Irish writers and directors. Speaking at the webinar James Hickey, SPI Board member and ex CEO Screen Ireland said: "Ireland has a unique opportunity with the Bill currently before the Seanad, to introduce a levy on PayTV and SVOD services targeting Irish audiences to fund Irish stories on screen, like ‘Normal People’ and ‘Conversations with Friends’. With a 3% levy, there would be an annual fund of at least €25m a year. Indecon reported that this would deliver €100m of production activity annually. That could be at least 5 TV drama series and 5 TV animation series a year as well as more feature films and documentary series."

The Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media’s published report (November 2021) on the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill 2020 recommends that specific provisions are made within the Bill for “the means of collecting the content levy, the party responsible for the collection of the levy, the percentage value of the levy, and the providers liable to pay the levy.” The Government has already brought forward the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022. The Bill does not provide for a levy to be introduced. When published, the Industry Group proposed specific amendments to the Bill, that included the immediate introduction of a 3% levy as of 1st January 2023. The Minister has declined to take on board the amendments. The Industry Group is now campaigning that this great opportunity for Irish creative talent and Irish screen content to tell their stories to Irish and world audiences, not be lost.

Read our interview with Hugh Farley, Director of the Writers’ Guild of Ireland, discussing the potential impact of a Content Levy.

According to Sarah Glennane,  CEO, Screen Composers Guild of Ireland: “Ireland is producing some exceptional creative talent, achieving international recognition in audio-visual storying telling in the form of composers, directors, writers and producers.  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.”

The webinar explored the vision and potential for the content levy, benefits enjoyed by other European countries and the importance of IP rights. European experts speaking at the webinar on the positive impact the levy has had on home produced content in their respective countries included, Susana Gato, APTI and President of CEPI (European Producers Association), Philippe Alessandri, Chairperson, Animation in Europe and Katharina Hiersemenzel, SVP, Public Policy in Constantin Film. 

According to Philippe: “The French audiovisual industry has already started to benefit from the levy collected by the CNC (5% of any broadcaster or platforms’ turnover in France) and the mandatory investments in European works (20% of the turnover).”

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