Networks are fulfilling their children’s drama content quota obligations by showing animation rather than live-action drama, the Inquiry into Film & TV has found.
In 2016 only eight hours of live-action children’s drama was broadcast under the quotas, compared to 84 hours of animated children’s drama.
The Australian Children’s Television Foundation says this is a problem because Australian animations are largely being made for a global audience and rarely contribute to the audience’s developing Australian identity. It argued that, “whereas the C drama quota previously showcased a range of Australian drama for children, animated drama with (frequently with generic or ‘international’ settings) now dominates. These projects are typically co-financed by local and foreign broadcasters and aimed at a global audience. While they are an important component of our screen industry, they rarely contribute to the audience’s developing Australian identity.”
Children’s TV production in Australia
The Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) agreed that animation: “…doesn’t have that capacity to represent to Australian children their own life and their own environment in a way that enables them to feel that extra level of engagement and to have the opportunities to reflect on their own culture and their own environment and to find their place in it better.”
Dr Anna Potter, lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast, argued international-style animations was counter to the policy intent of the quotas, “that were put in place expressly to support identifiably Australian content.”
In 2015 Screen Australia announced funding preference would be given to animated programs with Australian voices, or those that would consider a separate Australian voice track. It found a number of Australian / Canadian co-productions had voice soundtracks produced in Canada.
But production company Flying Bark Productions cautions against taking a narrow view of what is ‘Australian’.
Flying Bark states that it produces animated content which: “…reflects the diversity of identities that makes someone Australian. What is critical in these programs is that we ‘hear or see’ Australians on our screens, and that our storytelling reflects our sense of humour, values and diversity in characters and settings wherever possible.”
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) meanwhile recommended a study be commissioned to determine whether separate caps are required for children’s animation and conventional children’s live action drama.
The Inquiry recommended the children’s content sub-quotas be reformed with live-action drama remaining as part of the mix.