Industry campaigns against multichannel changes

Industry groups fear new rules will mean no new content on multichannels.

2013-02-22_1707skippyIndustry groups have launched a postcard campaign in response to “regressive” government changes to local content rules on multichannels.

The new rules will require networks to run at least 12 % Australian content between 6am and midnight on channels such as GO!, 7TWO and ELEVEN by 2015, but does not require them to air first-run content.

The Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers’ Guild, Media Entertainment and Artists Alliance and the Screen Producers Association of Australia claim networks will simply run news, sport, reality programs and endless repeats of aged sitcoms.

While networks will be able to play Drama to count towards their overall quotas, such as Neighbours, there will be no mandatory sub-quotas.

A postcard campaign has been launched in which ‘the ghost of Skippy‘ interviews Senator Stephen Conroy on his proposed changes.

“Why do your changes mean we will see even less Australian drama, docos and kids TV?” asks Skippy.

“Is all this just to make the networks happy in an election year?”

You can download an electronic campaign postcard and sign the online petition here: communityrun.org/p/australianstories

The ‘Australian Screens. Australian Stories.’ campaign organisers are urging citizens to sign and mail postcards which appeal to their local members of parliament to protect their access to quality Australian screen stories.

The postcards include a satirical cartoon by the 2012 Walkley Award winning cartoonist, First Dog on the Moon, which features Senator Conroy in a grilling television interview about the proposed changes and his motives for them with one of Australia’s greatest television exports: the ghost of ‘Skippy’ the bush kangaroo (postcard can be downloaded here: http://awg.com.au/images/pdfs/OZContentDLFinalDigital.pdf)

The ‘Australian Screens. Australian Stories.’ campaign lead by the Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers’ Guild, Media Entertainment and Artists Alliance and the Screen Producers Association of Australia, contends that the Australian public will be duped by the Federal Government if the propose changes are passed by parliament. The new requirement for each multi-channel to broadcast minimum hours of Australian content per year will not increase the amount of new Australian stories broadcast on our free-to-air television stations. Those requirements can and will be met by airing news, sport, reality programs and endless repeats of aged sitcoms.

The government is preparing legislation, announced by Senator Conroy on November 30 last year, for presentation to the March parliamentary sittings. The legislation will mandate the commercial networks to screen at least 12 % Australian content between 6am and midnight across their digital channels by 2015.

“This is a approximately half the amount of Australian content they currently show on their multi-channels,” said Australian Directors Guild Executive Director Kingston Anderson. “Critically, there is no requirement to screen any first run content so the quota can be filled by repeats of programs from the main channel.”

Senator Conroy’s November press release stated that ‘seeing Australian stories told on TV is vital in reflecting and maintaining our Australian identity, character and diversity’ and that the government is ‘taking a number of steps to enable commercial television broadcasters to continue to invest in and broadcast Australian content’.

“That’s a truism that plays well in the press but it bears no relationship with the announcement that was actually being made,” said Australian Writers Guild Executive Director Jacqueline Elaine. “The proposed changes will not result in any increase in the vulnerable program genres that tell original Australian stories – locally made drama, narrative comedy, children’s programs and documentaries.”

The legislation also plans to give the commercial networks ‘flexibility’ to spread their current Australian content requirements over all their channels. “Government has over time carefully built regulation around investing in the most vulnerable program types, said SPAA Executive Director Matthew Deaner. Flexibility has the potential to undermine this carefully constructed industry to the detriment of jobs and Australian viewers.”

“The local content quotas we’re asking for will not cost the taxpayer a cent. These quotas were actually recommended by the government’s own convergence review, which revealed a huge increase in foreign TV programs since the introduction of the multi-channels,” said Actors Equity Director Sue McCreadie “The cost should be borne by the commercial networks – which is not a lot to ask given the government is handing them a permanent cut in license fees and a commitment not to allow a fourth free-to-air network. “

“This Government hand out to the networks has already saved them $209 million and for the prevention of a fourth network competitor.”

The screen production industry is also calling on Australians to sign an on-line petition in support of meaningful local content regulation.


22 Responses

  1. I love how the independent production sector squeal about the TV networks being ‘protected’, all the while lobbying for more industry protection for themselves in the form of quotas and an increased Producer Offset for TV programs.

  2. @David Knox
    Lets not forget the ‘ABC Shop’ marketing many of their magnificent DVD’s…. And whilst you say this is all in an election year, but your list of concessions already granted, haven’t seemed to have produced any pro-government or even neutral benefits for the government, in fact I would say the exact opposite is happening.

    So much so in fact, the networks and print media etc. have made their choice of our next government blatantly obvious.

    So are the SASA campaigners, targeting the right side of politics, shouldn’t they be lobbying the media anointed Mr Abbott/Mr.Turnbull for their assurances to add any unsuitable regulations on his long list of things he is going to repeal, and because, citing @Victor, they have the stronger backbone(but still make sure any promises are written in blood or spinal fluids)

    Besides aren’t they( the networks) already terrorized and hounded enough by the ” Grand United Monitor, Mothering You” or “GUMMY” regulator ACMA, just look at how the Networks tremble at their powers to control Audio Volumes, EPG Accuracy, Adverts per Hour and Biased Reporting or simply Not Reporting etc
    ( just where have all the sports betting adds gone of late) .

    Or should SASA just leave it alone and trust the networks to do the right thing on their own initiative as they have always demonstrated? Ha Ha Ha!

  3. The local Australian producers and creatives are justified in arguing a special economic case for their industry. If the US for example produced apples for $2/kg and sold them in Australia for 20cents/kg that would be dumping and illegal. But if it does the same with television programmes, selling them for a fraction of their US rate elsewhere that is OK. The free to air networks got their licences for nothing and most recently their digital channels for nothing. They were not put to commercial auction which is what a truly capitalist model would do. In light of this the question of their obligation for this gift becomes highly contentious but their lobbyists in Canberra have since day one sought to whittle down Australian content, said they go broke etc etc . The politicians fearing their power have usually capitulated. But Mr Conroy sucking up to them will not save Labor. Ironically it is the Coalition which has over the years shown marginally more backbone.

  4. A good Tv show is good no matter where the hell it’s made, and I will watch it.
    I don’t watch a show just because it was made in Oz.

    If Oz Tv shows aren’t good enough that the viewers want to watch them, tough! make them good enough that we ‘want’ to watch them!

  5. @kirben. The loss of quotas will mean the loss of local industry jobs. It would reach far and wide and I don’t think I’d like the idea of watching overseas content for a lot of the day.

  6. Dear Australian Directors Guild, Australian Writers’ Guild, Media Entertainment and Artists Alliance and the Screen Producers Association of Australia etc

    Welcome to the real world where you compete with overseas competitors without protectionism or subsidies, and you survive or not by making quality shows that your audience wants to watch/buy.

  7. The digital channels do not produce any more viewers. The argument that they require more local content to be produced is nonsense. It is purely a cynical grab for more of other people’s money by the local producers.

    There is more local content that viewers will watch already more will simply make the industry less viable.

    Australian Networks can only be forced by the Government to produce loss making local content to the extent that they have profit from other mostly OS shows, above what they require to hold onto capital, to cross subsidise it.

    With the end of the TV advertising boom and OS shows rating poorly that isn’t as much anymore. The production companies will have to bear some of the contraction along with the networks. Yet they are expecting increases!!

    Until the NBN rolls out, we see where the economy is going and the current changes in motion run their course it isn’t certain what form the local FTA industry will survive in, if it survives at all. There are no guarantees in commercial business, that is what being commercial is.

    If you want guaranteed production you fund public broadcasters and arts bodies. Which we do to what must be something like over $2b/year. And looking at the budget situation it is unlikely to increase either and will probably have to contract if we want the Gonski reforms and the NDIS.

  8. There shouldn’t be Australian quotes at all, I couldn’t care less about the local industry. I’m tired of the local industry been protected this way, no matter what rubbish they produce.

    I expect this will only result in local companies making more money of their older productions, since that will be the cheapest way for the TV networks to fill their addition requirements.

    @jonasboi: This is already enough kids programming in those timeslots, but there is a real lack of new and quality content from overseas.

  9. Of course we need a quota. Why on earth would a network spend money on an Australian production when they can spend peanuts on US shows and get the same income from advertising. A quota is vital. We’re not on an even footing with the might of the US and they money they have available for production.

  10. there needs to be more kids programming between 6 and 10 am and 3 and 7 pm.

    as for running old content. lets hope they run old entertainment programs featuring Graham Kennedy, Don Lane. Bert, etc.

    1. Let’s be clear, bringing back repeats of these nostalgic titles is not on the cards, nor is it a responsible solution to the problem of multichannels escaping a mandatory sub-quota ruling for Drama, Documentary and Kids. These channels are now generating revenue and sometimes close to challenging the shares of Primary Channels, yet there is no pressure from the government for them to invest in new production. If we didn’t have the same kind of requirement to produce Australian Drama maybe we wouldn’t have had those nostalgic Dramas that are now being cited here. And where is the incentive for generating new talent? Without some basic rules put in place we risk less production, which will ultimately impact on Primary Channels too as personnel exit the industry. Networks have enjoyed the suspension of the license fees, given assurances that there is no fourth commercial network, and now protected from producing new content … all in an election year.

  11. @Maxxx Channel 9 Adelaide (WIN) has been advertising Crawfords DVDs for sale online. There’s a specific website, with the ads saying you can buy them online, but they won’t be released in stores. I’ve seen The Sullivan’s advertised like this, and lately they’ve been flogging The Flying Doctors, both the mini series and tv series and Acropolis Now. other Titles on the website include The Henderson Kids, All The Rivers Run 1 and 2, Carsons Law, Alive and Cooking, The Saddle Club, Fortress and Homicide.

  12. WIN is flogging their Crawford library on DVDs – The Sullivans, Flying Doctors, Carsons Law, Homicide, Division 4, Matlock Police, Acropolis Now, All the Rivers Run, Saddle Club, etc., and have pulled them from their overnight FTA airing. Cop Shop (582 eps!) was made by Crawfords for 7 so may eventually surface on DVD.
    But “seeing Australian stories told on TV is vital in reflecting and maintaining our Australian identity, character and diversity” can include junk made in NZ?

  13. Win (WA) was showing some of Crawfords shows in early mornings (3-4am) such as Division 4, Matlock Police Carson’s Law and 40 eps of Homicide before they stop screening it. It would be nice to Win to show them again.
    Maybe show some classics is not bad, and some of them beat hell of what we are getting now.
    If there nothing on there always choices, the radio, reading a book or watching a DVD, TV or film without commerials.

  14. It won’t be all repeats, they will run some NZ shows as well.

    It is interesting that all the various guilds believe that their shows are so bad that viewers will only watch them when deprived of choice.

  15. I guess that’s why they continually repeat Rescue Special Ops and Sea Patrol on the multichannels during the day whereas Cop Shop is nowhere to be seen. It may as well be lost forever, I doubt the whole series of such shows will ever be released on DVD so unless they are ever shown on one of these multichannels we will never be able to see them again.

  16. If that means the multi channels will run old Australian dramas, sitcoms and movies that we haven’t seen for years then that can only be a good thing. There’s hardly any Australian content on the multi channels at present, bring on Division 4, The Young Doctors and Prisoner!

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