The Australian Screen Sector Task Force has released COVID-Safe Guidelines designed to help the country’s screen industry eliminate or minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure as productions recommence.
Topics covered in the “live” document include duties under work health and safety (WHS) laws, risk management, control measures and incident management. The group is also urging producers to develop a COVID-19 risk mitigation plan based on a risk assessment prior to returning to work.
In March, Endemol Shine Australia had temporarily ceased production on Seven Network’s Big Brother after a crew member had been exposed to COVID-19. Similarly, the second season of Network 10′s Survivor – typically filmed in Fiji — had been postponed following travel restrictions.
The task force comprises Screen Producers Australia (SPA), AFTRS, Screen Australia, the MEAA, state agencies, guilds, ABC, SBS, Ausfilm and a number of production companies, in consultation with the Commonwealth Department of Health and law firm Clyde & Co.
SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said in a statement: “Our industry has been one of the hardest hit but this pandemic, with 120 productions directly affected, causing estimated damage to sector in excess of AU$2 billion and affecting over 30,000 working employees, freelancers and contractors. The guidelines represent an important milestone in returning to the production of quality Australian content for our nation’s entertainment and education and the ability to capitalize on export opportunities.”
The association also criticized the Australian government’s blanket suspension of commercial free-to-air content quotas and the “lack of transparency” surrounding the decision.
Deaner added: “In this context, a blanket suspension in 2020 makes no sense and the decision should be reversed. All it does is smother commissioning demand at a time when the industry needs it more than ever. A more appropriate government response to interruptions to the supply chain for television production would be a case by case consideration of regulatory forbearance, with an open process that considers evidence as to actual interruptions.”
The association is in talks with the government regarding assistance with insurance gaps which will arise for the production industry.
“With insurance policies most certainly to exclude coverage for COVID-19, we are asking the government to step in and cover this risk, with reference to previous government assistance in covering terrorism-related insurance issues. Without some form of assistance, production activity will stall, despite the best efforts and innovation of production businesses,” the organization stated in a release.