Industry campaigns against multichannel changes
Industry groups fear new rules will mean no new content 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.