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SPA rejects content cuts as Australian productions reportedly postponed, halted

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) is urging the federal government to forego cuts to content requirements for commercial broadcasters following a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday (March 23). SPA CEO Matthew ...
March 23, 2020

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) is urging the federal government to forego cuts to content requirements for commercial broadcasters following a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday (March 23).

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said the move would compound problems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by effectively “wiping out the production sector.”

“Producers are acutely aware of the interruptions that COVD-19 will cause to the delivery of new Australian content to broadcasters. Producers are confronting the devastating impacts of project shutdowns right across the industry at present, with over 60 affected productions, and the likely consequence of complete business failures with extensive job losses,” Deaner said in a statement. “However, any government response that involves reductions to annual content quotas would be excessive and deal a hammer blow to a production sector already on its knees.”

Most recently, industry trade Mumbrella reported that Endemol Shine Australia had ceased production on Seven Network’s Big Brother after a crew member had been exposed to COVID-19. Elsewhere, the second season of Network 10′s Survivor – typically filmed in Fiji — has been reportedly postponed following travel restrictions.

SPA is proposing the government average flexibility for commercial free-to-air broadcasters for the next one to two years to reflect “delayed or lack of delivery of new content.”

“This would allow near term quota obligations to be deferred into following years, providing flexibility, without reducing the overall quantum of content delivered in the long run,” Deaner stated. “Any regulatory forbearance or deferral should be considered on a case by case basis by the regulator, the ACMA and should be based on evidence of disruption to the expected pipeline of content delivery.”

Deaner said this would ensure the “return of demand” into the production sector when the crisis has eased.

“In order to return to health, the production sector will need a ‘heart start’ when production activity is able to resume. Importantly, we can also expect consumers to be hungry for relevant, locally produced content at this time, as we have already seen a spike in viewership numbers across commercial networks and subscription television as Australians begin to self-isolate and work from home,” he added.

Elsewhere, SPA released the preliminary results of its Effect of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Screen Production survey.

Of the productions captured, 19% were scheduled to begin production this year but have yet to commence, 24% have been delayed until a set date and 37% have been delayed indefinitely.

The organization expects financial damage to the sector to be greater than AU$2 billion, impacting more than 20,000 working employees, freelancers and contractors.

Other cost implications include an estimated $77 million in lost export revenue to date, in addition to the cost of “lengthy renegotiations, delayed releases and lost sales,” SPA reported.

(Photo: Australian Survivor host Jonathan LaPaglia, courtesy of Network 10)

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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