Seven West Media has told Communications Minister Paul Fletcher it will discontinue making Children’s content and will dump plans for new Australian dramas while the government delays content reforms.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports Seven advised Minister Fletcher in a letter last week after posting a $66 million half year loss.
CEO James Warburton pointed to production costs, of around $8m last year, in producing Children’s content.
Networks are currently required to produce 260 hours of children’s programs and 130 hours worth of preschool programs. They must also meet at least 250 points of first-release Australian drama, and 24 hours worth of children’s drama.
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said, “I’m aware of what the company has said but beyond that I look forward to the opportunity to discuss it at more length when I sit down with Mr Warburton. As part of the options paper that ACMA and Screen Australia are preparing, they are looking at a range of questions, including what are the content obligations on the free-to-air TV businesses and are they appropriate.”
While Seven will meet its quotas for 2020, in jeopardy are Get Clever, Get Arty, which TV Blackbox reported are not renewed, Kitty is not a Cat, Oh Yuck! and Larry the Wonderpup.
2020 dramas include Home and Away, RFDS and Between Two Worlds (already completed). Australian Gangster is also completed.
However Screen Producers Australia does not support a relaxing of children’s content quotas while the Australian Children’s Television Association argues it is pivotal for children to see characters who not only look like themselves, their family and their community, but who sound like them too.
“Ludo Studio’s hugely successful animated series Blueyis a great example of local content that manages to do both well. With its cattle dog characters speaking in broad Australian accents, and a soundtrack that includes squawking rosellas and droning cricket commentary,Bluey looks and sounds unmistakably Australian. Our kids deserve access to distinctive content like this which genuinely reflects their language, community and culture,” says ACTF.
MEAA chief executive officer Paul Murphy has also said, “It goes without saying that we want children to see their own culture reflected on screen through Australian stories. The last thing we want is for our kids in their developmental years to be exposed to a uniform diet of American and British accents. And research shows that Australian kids prefer content made for them.
“Nor should the provision of children’s live action programming be confined to the public broadcasters.
“Without enforceable quotas, it seems very clear that the media marketplace would jettison plans to produce quality children’s drama in a heartbeat.”
Shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland said, “This process has been dragging on for almost three years, and still this third-term government doesn’t know what to do.”
Seven shares fell to a record low of 17¢ on Tuesday.