Fears budget cut of $25 million for Screen Australia could jeopardise production jobs

screen australiaScreen Australia faces cuts of $25m over four years while a fund designed to encourage Australian video games developers has been scrapped as part of the federal budget passed down last night.

The cuts to the Screen Australia funding will see $5.2m taken from its funding next year, while the closure of the Australian Interactive Games Fund from July 1 will add $10 million in savings in 2014-15, which Kate Edwards founder and managing director of Kontented,  a content strategy and creation business, said would intensify the funding process, making it more competitive and ruthless.

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While the cuts are far more moderate than the swingeing recommendations in the Commission of Audit report earlier this month Screen Producers Australia executive director Matthew Deaner said the organisation is concerned at what seems a “disproportionate” cut to Screen Australia.

“We have some concerns that the cuts might be disproportionate in terms of the size of the cuts potentially to the amount of work Screen Australia’s already done to be efficient. What it does then is trigger potential cuts to programs and as a consequence we have concerns that we’re going to end up with a reduced amount of production work,” he said.

“It flows to the amount of money in the sector and the amount of work being produced.”

Graeme Mason, Screen Australia CEO, said: “Screen Australia like other Government organisations has been required to contribute to balancing the Federal Budget. We will undertake a comprehensive review of all programs and how they are delivered.  We will maintain our commitment to working efficiently in order to minimise the impact on the Australian screen sector.  

“We will focus on our core business to support culture, innovation and quality on Australian screens.  At this stage there is nothing further we can add.”

Deaner said the government must ensure Screen Australia, and the ABC and the SBS which also have seen cuts to their funding, have a workable timetable to enact the efficiencies without compromising their ability to develop, fund and commission Australian screen content, which costs more to produce than buying in overseas shows.

“The ABC, SBS and Screen Australia are essential partners to the independent production sector in Australia. Their investments trigger millions of dollars of local and international financing into productions which employ thousands of Australians,” he said.



Kontented’s Edwards said: “Creative pathways and industries in NSW employ more people than mining and agriculture combined and generate $1.4 billion in income each year via exports of creative. THe NSW government understands creative industries are part of a creative future for the country but unfortunately the Federal Government are taking an opposing lean.

“We use Screen Australia and Screen NSW to fund our projects. It’s already an extremely competitive environment where there isn’t enough funding for young people or professionals at more premium level. It’s already a really ruthless and competitive process where there isn’t enough money to go around and unfortunately the cuts are going to mean that it becomes even more competitive and less people are going to go into the industry and less people are going to have their creative skills increased and there’ll be even less mentorship than there is already.”

Deaner did note that the government had not followed the recommendations of the Commission of Audit, notably ignoring the recommendation to combine Screen Australia with the Australia Council body, but said the changes still had the potential to risk jobs in the industry.

He added:”You can’t say its all doom and gloom because what we’re talking about is a cut to one of the levers and you would hope there are some savings Screen Australia could save internally. But if you get to a point of these sorts of processes that the core business of the organisation, being in this case Screen Australia to trigger finance from overseas productions, is compromised, then you would say its not a great thing because you’re no longer stimulating the production industry to the level its used to.

“That’s a negative exercise because you end up removing components of the industry from the economy which isn’t ultimately good for the overall economy, it’s not good for audiences and it’s not good for people who want to work in Australia and create Australian content.

“We’ve got some concerns that Screen Australia has been given a little bit more of a hair cut than maybe it would warrant given that over the last few years its become a very efficient organisation.”

Edwards expressed concerns the cuts will send the industry backwards.

$25.1 million in funding cuts is a sizeable amount when you think about how big the industry is and how big it could be, it seems like we’re going backwards,” she said.

“It means there’ll be far more pressure placed on the networks and more traditional platforms to provide business and for broadcasters to provide opportunities that are now going to dry up.

“Unfortunately the greater divide will continue, the bigger companies like Shine and Freemantle have dodged a bullet because they’ve already sewn up their bigger broadcast deals but it just means that anybody is trying to get into the industry from a business perspective doesn’t get the chance.

“It sends the wrong message to the community and the brand community, if the government aren’t willing to back creative industries well, why should brands?”

The termination of the Australian Interactive Games Fund will also send Australia backwards, said Edwards.

“That’s one of our calling cards,” she said on Australia’s gaming, digital and tech community.

“Cutting $10 million from young people to receive small grants for them to hone their skills so they can be competitive on a world stage only sends us further backwards.”

Screen Australia’s total revenue for 2014-15 is estimated to be $100.328m, with money from government for the same period $90.308m. The body is also expecting to generate $10.020m in own-source income for the same period.

Miranda Ward


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