Simon Crean defines ‘documentary’ after Federal Court judgement against Screen Australia

The minister for the arts, Simon Crean has taken steps to better define the term ‘documentary’ for the purposes of the producer offset, a tax rebate to assist Australian productions.

The point of the definition is to distinguish the term documentary from ‘infotainment, lifestyle or magazine program.’

The move comes after a Federal Court case between Screen Australia and production company Essential Media and Entertainment was finalised in March over the agency’s previous definition.

Crean said in a statement: “Inserting a definition of the term ‘documentary’ will give producers greater confidence about the eligibility of their production and will support the success of the Producer Offset as a funding mechanism. It will also provide clear guidance for the program’s administrator Screen Australia and the Government in the operation of the Offset.”

Screen Australia had turned the company down from the offset on the grounds it was infotainment.

The case, first taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal by Essential and appealed to the Federal Court by Screen Australia found in favour of the production company.

The decision entitled the production company’s factual series Lush House to a 20% tax rebate as the Screen Producers Association of Australia slammed Screen Australia’s role as offset administrator. In turn saw the agency defend its role.

Chris Hilton, CEO of Essential Media and Entertainment, at the time of the hearing win, said: “It represents a win for the Australian production industry as a whole and should provide more certainty to producers who are seeking to invest the Producers Offset as part of their project finance. The factual production industry can now move forward with the hope that Screen Australia will consult closely with it on clearer definitions for eligibility for the producer offset program.”

Essential had previously accessed the offset though a very similar show on SBS, Is Your House Killing You.

The new changes have aligned Screen Australia with the Australian Content Standard made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

A consultation on the amendment will be conducted by the Treasury with an opportunity for the industry to comment, with a draft of the proposed changes made available on the Treasury website when released.


  1. Tk
    6 Jul 12
    11:36 am

  2. Should a definition of Infotainment and Magazine also be determined and made available for comparative consideration by producers?

  3. Tk
    6 Jul 12
    11:43 am

  4. Ok – I just found this in the link in the article to Encore online on July 25, 2011:
    From the ACMA documentary guidelines, a documentary is: “a creative treatment of actuality other than a news, current affairs, sports coverage, magazine, infotainment or light entertainment program.” Elsewhere in the guidelines it states, “To qualify on the ‘actuality’ test, the subject matter must be grounded in fact, or real life, this generally means that the context for the program exists independently of the program itself. That is, the documentary is a record of something that would have happened whether someone was there to film it or not.” However, the guidelines also acknowledge productions with a contrived premise like Super Size Me.
    The guidelines differentiate documentary and infotainment by illustrating ‘infotainment’ as the majority of the following characteristics:
    “The program will often be episodic in nature, comprising a series of distinct or loosely connected segments rather than an overall story arc.
    The treatment of the material will be superficial and unquestioning. There is likely to be limited engagement with or analysis of the subject matter.
    The primary purpose of the program may be to highlight goods or services available to the viewer, or to give the viewer advice on ‘how to’ undertake an activity.”