Aus Government supports screen industry with new regulations + funding

• Streaming video services will be asked to commence reporting Australian content acquisition from the 2021 calendar year.

The Australian Government will support the Australian screen industry by simplifying regulations and injecting $53 million into the development and production of local film and television as part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget.

Minister for communications, cyber safety and the arts Paul Fletcher said: “The Government is providing $30 million in funding to Screen Australia over two years to support the production of Australian drama, documentary and children’s film and television content,” Minister Fletcher said.

“Screen Australia will also receive an additional $3 million over three years to establish a competitive grants program to cultivate quality Australian screenwriting and script development.

“We are also providing $20 million to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation over two years to boost the development, production and distribution of high-quality Australian children’s content.”

In addition, the Producer Offset which producers use to receive a refund of part of the production budget through the tax system will be set at  30% for all domestic film and television production.

Minister Fletcher continued: “The old approach of treating film and television differently no longer makes sense. Increasing the offset to 30% for television will mean additional funding for Australian television production – and in turn support higher production values and programs with a better prospect of being sold into the global content market, taking advantage of the opportunity created by the explosion of streaming video services like Netflix, Disney+, Stan and Amazon Prime.”

There will also be changes to streamline and simplify the drama, documentaries and children’s content sub-quota Australian content rules for broadcasters.

The sub-quotas were temporarily suspended as an emergency measure during COVID-19, but will be reintroduced from 1 January 2021. 

Drama, children, or documentary content will count towards new simplified requirements. With the exception of a cap on the number of hours of documentary content that can be counted towards meeting the requirement. The mix chosen will be a matter for each broadcaster based on its business strategy and judgement of audience appeal. 

Commercial broadcasters will continue to be required to broadcast at least  55 % Australian content on their primary channels between 6:00 am and midnight, and to provide 1,460 hours of Australian content per year on their multi-channels.

The points scheme underpinning the sub-quotas will give more points to higher-budget productions, creating an incentive to commission bigger budget drama which is more likely to be sold globally.

The Government will also legislate to reduce the existing Australian content spend obligation on selected subscription television channels from 10% to 5%.

These reforms will arrive in the first budget brought down after the Supporting Australian Stories on our Screens options paper and consultation process, and forms part of the Government’s response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platforms Inquiry.

Also, streaming video services will be asked to commence reporting to the Australian Communications and Media Authority on Australian content acquisition from the 2021 calendar year.

“The Government very much appreciates the strong engagement we received during our consultations this year,” Minister Fletcher said.

“The views of stakeholders and interested parties were very clear – we need to continue our support for the production of Australian content, but we also need to remove unsustainable obligations on industry and tailor our interventions to match the new and diverse ways Australian content is being produced and consumed.”

“The measures announced today are designed to do just that. They begin to rebalance our regulatory framework and provide Australians with the opportunity to access Australian content across a range of media, regardless of whether they want to watch free-to-air television, subscription television or streaming services.”

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