Drama alarm bells at Seven

Debt-ridden network threatens to halt Children's production & new Dramas while the govt delays content reforms.

Larry the Wonderpup.

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.

Should commercial broadcasters be allowed to drop Kid's TV?

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20 Responses

  1. Sad to say but I don’t even know when children’s programming airs on Seven, Nine and 10 anymore. I remember as a kid coming home from school and watching Hi-5 on Nine but now it’s all news and game shows.

  2. I would say fine, to the commercial channels don’t make kids programming but you must pay the money to the ABC. I don’t watch commercial channels so frankly i presume they spend all their money on reality, which lets face it is around 15 years past its use by date.

  3. I think the children’s television programming within the range of free-to-air broadcasting has changed since the implementation of ABC3/ABC ME, ABC2/ABC Kids television and ABC KIDS Listen radio. So the television landscape is different now as to whether commercial networks should consider to produce children’s television. Some years ago, it would have been a necessity for commercial networks.

    Another side of the issue is whether the commercial networks are wanting to avoid and avoiding producing Australian content because of ratings.

    1. Additionally, the one noticeable difference between ABC and commercial networks’ children’s programming is that there are and have been more Australian children’s game shows on the commercial networks and that’s something they did very well. We really enjoyed watching game shows like A*mazing, Time Masters, Double Dare, Pick Your Face etc. when we were kids. Now the children’s game shows have less activity and they just answer subject questions, but it might have been due to health and safety.

  4. Why should the two be mutually exclusive? Of course they should pay their fair share of tax, whilst also contributing to local content, if not via quotas then perhaps a surcharge which would contribute to an industry production fund like they do in Germany.

  5. Funny behavior from a network who can’t get any of the entertainment formats to work post news, yet recommissioned MKR when it’s been dead for three years. Has the smell of a bully picking on smaller kids due to their own inadequacy, and destroying the environment that would ultimately assist in its revival in the process.

    You’d hope all the network execs out there are confident they’ll keep their jobs till retirement as their performance is killing any form of human resource demand by destroying an independent sector.

  6. We need to not just continually focus on the high-budget children’s dramas and animations as essential for Aussie kids.

    There are many lower-budgeted shows – such as Seven’s excellent (and now former) in-house kids productions, that have dedicated and very-talented production teams that are now out of a job. These ‘smell of an oily rag’ programs are just as vital to Aussie kids seeing and hearing Aussie voices and content – and provide a whole heap of work for a lot of people. Not to mention shows in development – that would have provided future employment. I know of several that have now bit the dust due to this decision.

    At this moment all Kids TV in Australia is only a gnat’s ankle away from becoming another ‘Holden’ story.

  7. Gee strip them of their license then and stop them broadcasting if they don’t comply with the current rules, sounds like they are very childish, not everyone else’s fault they’ve made a loss due to their mis management. If bluey can be so popular then maybe their content isn’t what kids want to watch, need to produce better content instead of just doing it to meet the quotas and pumping out garbage.

    1. Exactly. A temper tantrum – directed at the very people who provide their licence. Way to go.
      Give the licence back if you don’t like the conditions.
      Not exactly a well thought out management response…..

    1. They’re not using public spectrum. What is the rationale for forcing them to do that?

      Shouldn’t we instead be more focused on getting these companies to pay their fair share of tax and use that money to properly fund Aus content on the ABC?

        1. They need to change the rules. Instead of being based on spectrum, it should be based on operating in Australia. If any broadcaster or streaming service operates in Aus, then they must meet the existing quotas. This will mean companies who operate in Aus but have no physical presence here are also included. Then the existing license fees are separate to this – the fees pay for the spectrum only. All the quotas that are currently part of the license conditions instead become attached to whether the company operates in Aus

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