People/Biz

Australian broadcasters laud domestic content quota changes while SPA calls them a “backward step”

Changes being rolled out by the Australian government could have a serious impact on the health and sustainability of the domestic TV industry, insiders are cautioning. The concerns stem from a ...
September 30, 2020

Changes being rolled out by the Australian government could have a serious impact on the health and sustainability of the domestic TV industry, insiders are cautioning.

The concerns stem from a move which will make the temporary COVID-induced suspension of content quotas more permanent.

So, while Australian productions will get a raise in next week’s federal budget – with AUS$50 million in new funding being directed towards the arts sector – the added money arrives with a cut to domestic production requirements for local broadcasters.

Beginning next year, the change in policy will free networks from the need to broadcast at least 260 hours of children’s programs and 130 hours of pre-school programs annually. While 55% of programs aired during the day (6 a.m. to midnight) will still be required to be local, the new quotas can be met by any mix of drama, children’s content or documentaries.

The news was met positively by several Australian broadcasters, who say it frees them to spend money on programming that consumers want to watch – and will therefore increase domestic production.

Channel Ten boss Beverley McGarvey told Mumbrella‘s Brittney Rigby that the “reforms are a win for audiences, a win for networks and a win for the local production sector.

“They promise fairness and flexibility, allowing us to continue to invest in the programs our audiences love while giving them the choice of the time and the place that they choose to watch them,” she said.

But the moves have not been welcomed by film body Screen Producers Australia (SPA). The SPA predicts they will have a devastating effect on the amount of content being produced domestically – at least a 50 percent drop, at the cost of thousands of jobs in the sector.

“With the local screen industry already reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 and the freezing of contracting caused by the suspension of quotas since April, the announcement today is an unfortunate backward step and we predict will result in the demise of many Australian businesses and livelihoods,” said SPA CEO Matthew Deaner (pictured) in a statement.

“Deregulation of legacy platforms without a transition plan into regulation of new platforms creates a disjointed and incomplete policy response that tinkers around the edges, appears to have been driven by old-world thinking and has scant regard to the future of Australian screen content,” he added.

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