Half of Nine’s first release “Australian” drama is from New Zealand with the network taking advantage of loopholes in the rules governing local content, a new report by media watchdog The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found.
The report, released today, shows last year 51 per cent of Nine’s content came from across the Tasman Sea compared with just 7 per cent for Seven Network and 4 per cent for Network Ten.
Under trade treaties with New Zealand, television programs from the country may be claimed as “local content” for the purposes of meeting Australian commercial television content obligations, a loophole which Nine appears to have used to full effect last with the screening of Underbelly NZ Land of the Long Green Cloud.
The report also provides the new insight into how the multichannels are being with use with the report finding Nine was providing two thirds of its Australian drama on multi-channels, as well as all children’s programs on Go!
“There were anomalies in 2013 with a local New Zealand version of our Australian series Underbelly produced by the same Australian company Screentime NZ which added to the New Zealand originated programs. More than 65 per cent of our prime time content was local content in 2013, well above the 55 per cent quota”, said a spokeswoman for Nine.
The network also defend its investment in the Australian sector citing a number of series launched last year. “The Nine Network continues to invest strongly in local content. Drama is an important and vital part of that mix already this year we have screened Fat Tony, Schapelle, Love Child and currently in the midst of the new, much loved House Husbands,” she said.
“We also have increased investments in news and current affairs which has resulted in journalists being employed around the country, as well as entertainment and reality programs. We are currently in production with season two of Love Child and have just completed physical production on the landmark series Gallipoli for broadcast in 2015.”
This year’s inclusion of the multichannels sees Network Ten able to claim Neighbours for the first time since 2010. This change saw Ten achieve a score of 344 points for 2013, while Seven had 350 points and Nine had 332 points (with half of these coming from New Zealand). The minimum score is 250.
Screen Producers Australia today issued a statement saying it was disappointed and alarmed at the reliance of TV networks on New Zealand content arguing it is “not in the spirit” of the local content rules.
“This is clearly a disturbing trend,” said Matthew Deaner, Screen Producers Australia executive director. “Our fears have been realised. The industry was reassured by the Gillard Government that the licence fee reductions to the commercial free-to-air television licensees would better protect Australian content and we can now see that this isn’t true.
“This is particularly so for our most vulnerable content protected by the drama, documentary and children’s sub-quotas. The effect of the reforms is to shift first release Australian content away from the high visibility primary channel to channels with much lower audiences.
“With cheap imported New Zealand drama shelved on multi-channels accounting for 51 per cent of the Nine Network’s drama points and 60 per cent of their drama broadcast hours, it is clear that the increased flexibility has become a cynical exercise that is shortchanging Australian viewers.
“This is not in the spirit of the Australian Content Standard and, when considered alongside more attractive production incentives that were recently introduced in New Zealand, there needs government review and reform.”