Hands off local quotas

Screen Producers Australia has urged the government to reject suggestions that Australian content requirements for commercial television broadcasters should be cut.

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported the government is considering temporary relief from broadcasting spectrum licence fees and local content obligations, as networks face an unprecedented onslaught from COVID-19.

“Producers are acutely aware of the interruptions that COVD-19 will cause to the delivery of new Australian content to broadcasters. Producers are confronting the devastating impacts of project shutdowns right across the industry at present, with over 60 affected productions, and the likely consequence of complete business failures with extensive job losses,” said SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.

“However, any Government response that involves reductions to annual content quotas would be excessive and deal a hammer blow to a production sector already on its knees.

“We cannot see any burden shifted to the independent production sector. While we understand challenges the collective industry and economy is facing, this would simply compound problems – wiping out the production sector, removing small business and employment, stifling creativity and harming Australian culture.”

SPA recommends averaging flexibility for broadcasters across the next one to two years to reflect delayed or lack of delivery of new content.

“This would allow near term quota obligations to be deferred into following years, providing flexibility, without reducing the overall quantum of content delivered in the longer term,” said Deaner.

“Any regulatory forbearance or deferral should be considered on a case by case basis by the regulator, the ACMA and should be based on evidence of disruption to the expected pipeline of content delivery.

“Crucially, this would ensure the return of demand into the production sector when the current crisis has eased. In order to return to health, the production sector will need a ‘heart start’ when production activity is able to resume. Importantly, we can also expect consumers to be hungry for relevant, locally produced content at this time, as we have already seen a spike in viewership numbers across commercial networks and subscription television as Australians begin to self-isolate and work from home.”

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