Producers are unhappy that government policy decisions over the last 3 years have failed to assist the independent sector.
Screen Producers Australia has released a policy ledger of recent decisions and cuts dating back to May 2014 that show benefits to commercial television networks, but fail to address issues facing Australian producers.
They include the Broadcast Licence Fee reductions, cuts to ABC, SBS & Screen Australia and subsidised funding for US movies Thor, Alien & Aquaman.
Only one move has been judged as beneficial across the board, the site blocking of piracy websites.
“This ledger sets out in stark relief the series of policy decisions made over the last 3 years that have negatively, or asymmetrically, affected the industry and in particular, the small businesses that drive it,” CEO Matthew Deaner said.
“Negative decisions range from the series of egregious funding cuts to the ABC, SBS and Screen Australia that has pulled $400 million from the industry, to withdrawing regulatory oversight and auditing on local content obligations.
“The ledger also makes clear the other Government decisions that have had an asymmetrical impact on the industry. The Government decided to benefit certain businesses at one end of the value chain, such as the broadcasters with a series of broadcast licence fee refunds. These windfalls may boost broadcasters’ share prices, but not their commitment to local content, which has declined 20 per cent for drama and documentaries over the past four years.
“The Government has also moved to benefit certain elements of the local industry, such as services sector and crew with nearly $70 million in funding for foreign films Thor, Alien and Aquaman. This is welcome but the approach has not been certain or consistent or taken into account the entire production ecosystem and it ongoing sustainability.
“The status quo also prejudices the industry. A lack of action on the increasing substitution of New Zealand content for Australian content by the broadcasters, co-production treaties with key markets, foreign actor red tape, offset competitiveness, evolving local content obligations and addressing significant structural competition issues in the market, compounds the hurt for the small business and hinders international trade opportunities and our industry’s international competitiveness.
“What the ledger demonstrates is the Government’s policy approach to the local production industry looks a lot like trickle-down economics. The Government’s agenda to date has been regrettably incomplete and has left out the small businesses that drive the industry.”
Screen Producers Australia has made also submissions to the government on issues relating to New Zealand content, the Danish Co-Production Agreement, Foreign Actors, lifting production offsets, and investment by subscription video on demand in local content. But it is still awaiting action on these issues.
SPA claims NZ content counting as Australian content costs the industry a minimum of $2.5m because it reduces the incentive for commercial television broadcasters to invest in the production of
“The recent announcement of a content review is a welcome opportunity to rebalance the ledger. If the Government is committed to an efficient market and effective support mechanisms for Australian content through this review, we need to rebalance this ledger in favour of the small, nimble and agile businesses that allocate and extract most value out of the resources in the market. To ensure a diversity of Australian content, we need a diversity in supply that will ensure against a future dominated by vertically integrated content oligopolies in which Australian audiences will suffer from a lack of a diversity and choice in their programming options,” Deaner continued.
“SPA looks forward to working with the Government to rebalance the ledger.”
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has been trying to get media reforms passed through the Parliament after broad agreement from key media players, but it is awaiting action in the Senate.
You can see the policy ledger here.