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.