Media industry comments on $53 in funding and regulation changes

Responses from Nine, Seven, 10, Foxtel and the MEAA.

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.

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.

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. 

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%.

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

Below are the responses that have been released by the leaders of broadcasters Nine, Seven, 10, Foxtel and also from the MEAA.

Nine Entertainment CEO Hugh Marks

“Nine welcomes this important step in the vital reform needed for our local production sector. It will not only provide a much needed boost to local content production but enable us to better compete in the global content industry.  We will work with the Government to finalise some of the details, but overall this is an important and much needed overdue step in the reform process and we appreciate the time and consideration taken by the Minister to get us to this point,” 

Seven West Media managing director and CEO James Warburton

“We welcome today’s announcement by the Government regarding new funding in the Budget to deliver Australian Screen Content.

“The increase to the Producer Offset tax incentive production for TV series in particular, is a great result for the whole sector, that will fuel strong investment and growth in a sector that has been hard hit by the impacts of COVID-19.

“We remain strongly committed to Australian content and welcome the changes to TV content quotas, which will provide greater flexibility to for us to invest more in those programs that audiences want, and to adjust to changing audience preferences. This is a big step in the right direction and also recognise the importance and value of series like Home and Away, the number one Australian drama which has been on-air and produced locally for 33 years strong.

“We look forward to working with the Government on the implementation.”

ViacomCBS Australia & New Zealand chief content officer & EVP Beverley McGarvey

“Today’s announcements are a significant step forward for broadcasters, content providers, producers and, most importantly, Australian audiences in ensuring a sustainable and enduring local production industry. 

“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.

“They also properly recognise the significant contributions that children’s content and long-running dramas make to the local production industry in the form of jobs and talent, rewarding our ongoing investment in popular Australian dramas such as Neighbours, while also incentivising our involvement in larger-scale productions such as The Secrets She Keeps and Five Bedrooms.

“Similarly, they properly reward our significant and growing investment in children’s television and encourage rolling investments in documentaries such as Todd Sampson’s BodyHack or Lindy Chamberlain: The True Story.

“At ViacomCBS, we’re proud of our commitment to the local production sector. Our content is watched by 20 million Australians every month across our brands on Free to Air, Pay TV and streaming platforms.

“We can’t wait to reveal the exciting pipeline of local content coming to your screens in 2021 at our upcoming Upfronts event and look forward to working with the Government on continuing to build a successful local production industry.”

Foxtel Group CEO Patrick Delany

“The package of measures announced by the Federal Government to support local production is a good outcome for Australia, which will see more home-grown stories on our screens. 

“Foxtel looks forward to the opportunity to work closely with Screen Australia to kick-start new productions and employment in the creative sector, which have been severely impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. We also look forward to featuring the results of work between our channel partners and the Children’s Television Foundation on Foxtel.

“The Government’s package represents a starting point for Foxtel’s future investment in award-winning Australian drama and entertainment.  They provide us with flexibility as we plan new productions, and importantly they recognise television is now producing world-class drama that is much-loved in Australia and sought after internationally.”

MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy

“How the Government has missed the boat on regulating streaming services and requiring set levels of Australian content each year defies belief.”

“This government seems intent on deregulation rather than creating a playing field that is level for all.

“Streaming services – yielding billions in income each year – will be celebrating that they have again avoided any content rules.

“The new flexibility provided to Australian commercial television networks will also lead to fewer productions across the board. Moving Foxtel and other subscription broadcast television broadcasters to 5% from 10% of program expenditure for each drama channel just reflects a government that is not serious about the provision of quality Australian content for our growing nation.

“The maintenance of the 55% Australian content rule is a statement of business as usual, as it already allows television broadcasters to count reality, sports, news and current affairs towards quota achievement, but is accompanied by weakened sub-quotas. It is likely to mean the demise of children’s content on commercial TV, leaving a cash-strapped ABC to pick up the slack.

“Even the ‘additional’ funding for Screen Australia simply restores the organisation to pre-Abbott (2014) funding levels.

“The harmonisation of the producer offset is welcome, but it has resulted in a cut of the feature film offset from 40% to 30%.”

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