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Stokes warns on loss of local TV

AAP logoAAP 9/11/2016 Marty Silk

Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes says Australia's high broadcast licence fees and lack of incentives for local content are making production in overseas markets more attractive.

Mr Stokes told Seven West's annual general meeting that local licence fees are 15 times higher than the UK, which reduced fees to almost nothing in 2011.

He said some of the most promising parts of the company's businesses are its productions in the UK and the US.

"We see these areas as being good for Seven, we see them as huge opportunities for Australia. We sell Home and Away overseas, we know how valuable that is, we sell dramas overseas and now we start to sell concepts rather than import them," he said.

"And we think that with a level playing field the company would be more profitable and the Australian economy would actually get the benefit of innovation that we talk about, but don't see."

Mr Stokes also highlighted streaming service Netflix, saying little of its $5 billion production budget last year was spent within Australia and that 60 per cent of local production spending came from commercial televison.

He said the government would also need to test whether it was appropriate to spend taxpayer dollars funding a new season of the ABC TV series Glitch which will be exclusively branded as Netflix content in some foreign markets.

"Perhaps we should not be too surprised, since neither the ABC nor Netflix are likely to pay Australian taxes," Mr Stokes said.

"Their model will certainly ensure less tax paid in Australia by traditional companies, as we compete against those who have advantages not available to us."

Australian Shareholders Association representative Alan Goldman asked why digital revenue had not risen in line with digital audiences, which chief executive Tim Worner said had increased by 500 per cent this year.

Mr Stokes said digital profitability remained low compared to the traditional media businesses.

"The saying I think is 'traditional dollars and digital dimes' and we build digital business on small amounts based each year on incremental revenue," he said.

"Having said that, we are seeing a very big increase proportionately on the revenues we're writing on digital and it's now in the tens of millions of dollars.

"We're expecting by the end of this calendar year it will be significantly higher again."

Mr Worner told the meeting underlying earnings for 2016/17 will be at the lower end of an estimated 15 to 20 per cent drop on the previous year.

Shares in the media group were down one cent or 1.4 per cent at 69.5 cents at 1259 AEDT.

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