Questions on local content rule

2013-03-26_0106There have been two articles written about the downside of the government’s new legislation on “local content” passed through Parliament last week.

Both reiterate the points made by industry groups SPAA, AWG, ADG and MEAA that not requiring first-run content on multichannels would lead to reruns of tired Aussie content.

Writing in the Brisbane Times last week, Ben Goldsmith from the Queensland University of Technology argued that:

The 55% Australian content transmission quota on the free-to-airs’ main channels is now elevated from a regulatory instrument made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority into primary legislation for the first time. And for the first time the networks will also be required to meet Australian content quotas on their digital multi-channels. Between 6am and midnight, each licensee must broadcast on their multi-channels a minimum of 730 hours of Australian programs in 2013, rising to 1095 in 2014, and 1460 in 2015 and each year thereafter. There is nothing to stop commercial networks meeting these quotas by screening re-runs of old programs.

The proposed new legislation also affects the sub-quotas for first-run drama, documentary and children’s programming. The Commercial broadcasters can now meet these obligations by screening these programs on either their main or multi-channels. However, the proposed legislation may actually reduce the amount of Australian content; should the networks choose to screen first-run Australian content on the multi-channels, each hour of new programming will count as two under the quota.

Today Karl Quinn in The Age notes:

The only enticement for the broadcasters to commission new content is that each hour of first-release drama shown on its multi-channels will count as double.

In Neighbours, Ten finds it once again has a good friend. When it moved the long-running soapie to 11 in 2011, it lost the drama points the show had previously earned because the quotas did not apply to the multi-channels. (It could wear that loss because the show is largely paid for by UK broadcaster Channel 5; on some estimates it costs Ten just $20,000 an episode.) The resulting points shortfall was a major factor in Ten commissioning some exceptional drama content, including Puberty Blues and the Julian Assange telemovie Underground, in recent times.

Now, though, Ten will have the benefit of both the points and the hours Neighbours accrues. The 240 half-hour episodes 11 airs each year will earn it 120 drama points, a big chunk of the 250 per year it must commission; but because it is screened on a multi-channel it will also count as 240 hours, a handy start on the way to that target of 1460 (across two channels, remember). Repeats of Neighbours could contribute even further.

TEN has maintained Neighbours will attract double the hours but not the points under the new rule.


  1. carolemorrissey

    I thought Reef Doctors was coming later in the year.

    I agree, they probably need to be specific as to how many new shows and repeats. I like a good Aussie drama and love US shows as well.

  2. Actually I fond quite a bit of original Australian content satisfying. Not the soaps, ofr certain, but I do like the period dramas, the comedy and even some of the one-off “events”. As to NZ content, I quite like this too, and am grateful that the laws allow it so as I get to enjoy shows such TAJ or OF.

    But it is a matter of taste I guess. If all you are interested in is style over substance then you will gravitate towards the US shows.

  3. Or Seriouslysquare, even simpler with a 0% requirement and let viewers decide how much they want to watch. It would probably be less than now but wouldn’t be zero and, unlike now, would have to compete on quality rather than presenting crap which has no atttributes other than a passport. Unfortunately local content rules won’t go away but the internet will continue to erode their reach so Australian TV will only be watched when it’s better than the alternative. I wonder what happens though when the value of a TV licence becomes so low that owners will walk away rather than produce a crap Australian drama to satisfy their local content requirement?

  4. Time to bring back Prisoner as part of a primetime lineup on one of the digital channels.

    If it could do so well on Foxtel there’s no reason it wouldn’t do well on one of the digitals.

  5. This is all intentional. The regulations are not intended to fill 6 secondary channels with new local content. That would be insane.

    The law is intended to replace new and repeats OS on secondary channels with repeated local content. That is also insane and will only increase the value of TBBT, The Simpson etc to Foxtel.

    1 hour of new local content is worth much more than 2 hours of repeated local content. So giving it twice the weighting is not a problem. In fact the weighting should be higher because at this level it will have no effect.

    And by local content we are talking mostly about NZ shows because they the only local content cheap enough for secondary channels to buy.

  6. Ten made PB to make up for Offspring being shortened due to its ratings dropping to 700k. The idea being to make half a series of Offspring and then something new which they hoped would do better.

    Underground was a one off 2 hours of content. It was intended to be a big impact show winning a Sunday night and generating OS sales. Was hugely successful and Ten’s only hit in the 2nd half of 2012.

    They would have been made anyway. What Ten churned out to replace Neighbour’s points was Reef Doctors. And when that was pulled they were forced to show the NZ dramas The Amazing Johnson and Go Girls at 10.30pm.

    If Neigbours was counted that is what Ten wouldn’t have shown.

  7. seriouslysquare

    they could make it oh so simple with a requirement of 100% Australian Content.

    50% new content on there main channel. 50% new or repeats on there multi-channels.

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