Networks push for local content points on multichannels

The argument about local content points on multichannels is a complex one, but will have a renewed push after Free TV’s submission to the Convergence Review calls for local shows on ELEVEN, GO!, GEM, 7TWO, 7mate and ONE to count towards annual totals.

The Australian reports that the Free TV submission argues that, “With Australia transitioning to a fully digital environment by the end of 2013, this kind of regulatory distinction becomes irrelevant and there is scope to consider additional flexibility in how broadcasters meet cultural objectives.

“We need to debate how we can provide more flexibility to enable broadcasters to serve the public interest in a way that does not put us at a competitive disadvantage in comparison to other platforms or delivery mechanisms.”

Public interest is far more important than any competitive disadvantage by private sector media.

In principle it would be good to see more local content on channels that are smothered by US and UK content. Steps to encourage this would be a positive thing.

At the moment Neighbours attracts no local drama points on ELEVEN, although TEN knew this at the time it made the move, and was probably optimistic the landscape might have changed by now. On Monday, the soap pulled its best audience this year on the channel, an impressive 455,000 viewers -close to the average it was attracting in its final days on TEN.

But there are risks in allowing such shows to count -principally that it does not lead to a watering down of quality Aussie dramas. If dramas can attract points on multichannels what’s to stop networks filling our primary channels with more US content and playing B grade dramas on multichannels just to get the points?

If a drama isn’t rating on a primary channel it could be sent to a multichannel to die a slow death. Who remembers Blue Heelers ending its long run on a Saturday night? McLeod’s Daughters suffered the same fate.

Requiring first run drama on primary channels in primetime ensures quality controls -if the show isn’t well-produced it won’t rate, and a network will have to stump up with a better product.

We have already seen what happened when New Zealand content was allowed to count as Australian.

Some networks have also run little-known Aussie films on Saturday nights in summer just to top up their points. It’s legal and technically they are doing nothing wrong.

But in their defence, we are also enjoying a string of local drama investments. This is because it is well-made Australian drama that resonates with viewers. So they must be preserved not diluted.

The government will have to devise a working formula that does not compromise the quality of local drama, delivered to a broad audience on Free to Air television.

One option might be to allow local content points for some genres, but keep points for Drama and Children’s television on Primary Channels.

The Screen Producers Association has previously welcomed the notion of drama on multichannels as ways of supporting emerging talent but is aware of wider repercussions by opening up the floodgates.

“We recognise that it won’t be Drama at $750,000 an hour because of the economics of those channels. It will probably be different forms of Drama. It might be more comedy focused or experimental, as a way of seeing whether programmes might work to be brought over to a primary service,” SPAA president Geoff Brown has previously stated.

34 Comments:

  1. Craig(Buzz)

    As mentioned before this got underway David i said that no way the digital channels will supply new Australian content on there channels.They talked it up but sure enough to none of my surprise they havn’t..Sure it’s worked for Neighbours.But that show is it’s own little section as we all know.The money isn’t there,for local content.but that aside digital channels in Australia are the best in the world.Alot of people would be unaware of that as just about all programming is supplied from the cable networks just they are generally around 3 to 4 years old.The digital channels would be stuffed in Australia if they had no permission to run cable shows.Do i feel sorry for Foxtel absolutely it’s not a fair playing ground

  2. The only thing FTA commercial TV cares about is cutting costs. If they were not compelled to meet their quota requirements they simply would not make any Australian drama despite the fact that when you get it right it wins the ratings. We have to protect the Australian drama industry by keeping these quotas and even increasing them. If their drama series are failing it’s because their choices are wrong because their drama heads got it wrong. When they get it right it more than pays its way.

  3. Content quotas are basically another form of protectionism – we won’t lift a finger to protect manufacturing which employs a million Australians and keeps productive skills in our workforce, yet we’ll shield television producers from the global marketplace with they byzantine content schemes.

    Australian television history is littered with awful shows that existed for no reason other than to prop up a network’s quota. There should only be one test for whether a show gets made – if it makes money – that’s all you need.

    Consider that if we didn’t have these quotas Sea Patrol wouldn’t have had a season this year and Rescue Special Ops would likely be axed by now.

    Digital TV has so far been a haven where we retreat from this garbage and now people want more of it! Give me strength.

  4. Armchair Analyst

    I would much like the main channels to host Australian content and i mean Australian content not New Zealand’s but count it as our own. The secondary channels would be good for the international content. It would be better to have more structure and simplicity. So if people want mainly international content then they know where to look for it and the same goes for the australian content. But i do stress this if people want australian content then it needs to be of a high quality standard.

  5. Multichannels should be forced to have at least 10% Aussie content in addition to teh Aussie content and drama quotas on the main channels..

  6. As someone pointed out these new digital networks have been booking tens of millions in profits for the parent broadcasters for years now

    If Free TV really believe that in 5 years there will e no difference to the viewer between say Nine and One (and I agree) then the digital networks should have Australian content requirements too, separate from the main flagship networks

    Starting with say 10% between 6am and midnight (it’s 55% for the flagship nets)

    That is a tiny requirement that the networks could easily meet. It could rise to 15% in 5 years. And 20% in 10 years.

  7. Ok i am all for this but they have to limit how much is counted on the digital channels. Make it only 20%-30% is counted. It has to be regulated because if it allows whatever then i recon Nine in particular wouldn’t even try anything worth much anymore.

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