Production sector: government has short changed us on content quotas

Conroy: a fall in Australian content on TV will not happen

Australia’s production sector has objected to the Australian government’s new legislation on content quotas, which it says will be a boon for the three commercial free-to-air channels – but of little benefit to content makers.

In a joint announcement from the Australian Writers’ Guild, Australian Directors Guild, Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance and Screen Producers Association of Australia, the sector said Australia had been ‘short changed’ following the government’s drop by 50% of broadcast licensing fees while ‘circumventing its own consultation process’ with the industry.

SPAA executive director, Matthew Deaner said: “No increase in Australian content, no competition from a fourth network, and reduced diversity of media ownership in return for a permanent 50% reduction in license fees for the use of gifted public spectrum represents poor public policy and is not a win for the Australian people.”

However, a spokesman for media minister Stephen Conroy, told Mumbrella: “The claim that the measures announced on Friday will lead to a reduction in Australian content on Australian TV are demonstrably false.”

“Currently there are no mandated Australian content hours for the digital multi-channels – the new digital-only channels were exempt from Australian content requirements until the completion of digital switchover at the end of 2013.”

“The new requirement for the broadcast of Australian content on the digital-only multi-channels – commencing at 730 hours per year in 2013 and rising to 1460 hours per year by 2015 – is in addition to the existing 55% transmission quota on the primary channel and means that the requirement to broadcast minimum levels of Australian content on the multi-channels commences a full year earlier than it would have if this measure had not been introduced.”

While these new requirements will mean an enforced quota of local content across the multi-channels, production sector representatives argued: “The Convergence Review reported the average Australian content per multi channel in 2011 was 14.8%. So the new requirement will not result in any increase in Australian content at all, but will in fact allow them to decrease it.”

Kingston Anderson, the Australian Directors’ Guild executive director said: “Since the Review delivered the recommendations from industry there has been no exchange with stakeholders about cuts to license fees and what Australians should expect in return. From our perspective it is all one way traffic with the commercial networks getting significant concessions and the Australian public none.”

Deaner added: “We will however continue to work productively with government in the coming months to assist the achievement of sensible policy outcomes that enable Australians access to more of their own stories on Australian screens.”

The Minister’s spokesman did not answer Mumbrella’s question on whether a producer tax offset for TV production of 40%, to equal that of the Australian film industry, would come into practice.


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