Children’s TV Producers: “We’re realists… but we need rapid intervention”

Some of Australia’s most successful Children’s TV producers have sent a letter to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher following the government’s overhaul of local quotas.

From 2021 Free to Air commercial broadcasters are required to reach 250 points of Australian genre content. While there is a cap on 50 points in documentary, there is no longer a sub-quota for Children’s television -meaning all 200 points can be made up from Drama / Feature Film (including eligible NZ content).

Despite a further $20m to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (which invests in some -but not all- projects), there are also concerns around funding for ABC  which will now carry the lion’s share of Children’s Drama, and to a lesser extent SBS.

There is also no local content requirement placed on Streaming services, which is still under review.

In addition to their concerns around commissions, production and the impact on storytelling, Childrens’ producers also highlight how the changes impact their ability to satisfactorily finance new projects.

Signatories to the letter are:

A Stark Productions, Ambience Entertainment, Beyond Productions, Blue Rocket Productions, BES Animation, Buster Productions, Cheeky Little Media, Emerald Films, Feisty Dame Productions, Kapow Pictures, Lalor Law, Like A Photon Creative, Ludo Studio, Media World Pictures, Mememe Productions, Moody Street Kids, Ned Lander Media, Pop Family Entertainment, Shiff and Co, Jonathan M. Shiff Productions, Sticky Pictures, SLR, Northern Pictures, Viskatoons.

We are a group of award-winning, successful Australian Children’s Screen Producers who create, finance and produce animated and live action content for children and families in Australia and for export to 180 countries across the globe.

We represent the majority of independent Australian children’s screen content producers and have reached a strong consensus on the recent policy changes announced by Federal Minister for Communications, Paul Fletcher MP, and the damaging impact they will have on our sector.

We urgently request the Government immediately review their policy announcement and work with us to implement reforms that are workable and sustainable and which allow the sector to continue to access the Government’s much applauded Producer Tax Offsets.

Unless these amendments are urgently implemented we fear many thousands of jobs will be lost and highly successful and profitable production companies will be forced to close.

As children’s content producers, we are businesses that move with the times. We recognise that our audiences have shifted their viewing to include VOD platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and Apple and welcome the opportunities this shift provides. We strongly support a progressive outlook for Australian children’s content in an evolving on-demand world and we agree with the Federal Government on the need for policy change that supports a market driven approach to the sector.

But in abolishing the Free To Air quotas for children’s content, with no corresponding legislation in place for the streamers or other adjustments, the Federal government has left the sector stranded. We producers must find the means to sustain our industry through a period of uncertainty around funding and regulation. This is despite a long consultation period between the industry and Government that was intended to avoid just this scenario.

In the current conditions, these changes will leave only one readily available open door for producers, the ABC, which, with its significantly reduced funding for children’s content cannot commission new work for the next two years, leaving the independent production sector with nowhere to go.

Most Australian children’s productions are co-financed with international territories, but Australian producers are dependent on local broadcaster fees to trigger Tax Offset and other funding. Without the broadcaster commission, an Australian producer cannot access the Producer Offset. The Government’s changes announced last week effectively immediately removed those local commissions.

The change will also impact on the production of programs through the Australian Government’s Co-Production Treaty arrangements, as the licence fees and broadcaster commissions were an essential element in producers reaching the minimum finance requirements of these Treaties. If we can’t bring that finance to the table, we can’t finance and produce Australian intellectual property at a viable volume for worldwide distribution.

These are cornerstone arrangements that underpin what has been a highly successful Australian Children’s screen production industry – now placed at risk by the Government’s policy changes.

We urgently request the Government meet with us to agree more workable policy arrangements.

We employ many thousands of highly skilled, mostly young, tech-smart people in a diverse and gender parity driven industry – and we leverage more value-added screen production in Australia than any other production sector. The children’s production sector is high value, high return and high volume.

And our animation production is Covid-19 proof – with multiple Australian productions – many working with international partners – continuing on schedule and on budget throughout the pandemic.

As evidenced by its significant international success stories, children’s television production in Australia is regarded as amongst the highest quality in the world, with productions such as The Deep, First Day, Bluey, Alien TV, ITCH, Little J & Big Cuz, dirtgirlworld, Dance Academy, Tashi, The Strange Chores, Bottersnikes and Gumbles, CJ the DJ, The Bureau of Magical Things, Mako Mermaids, Hardball, Thalu, Drop Dead Weird, Grace Beside Me, The Unlisted, Mustangs FC, Kitty Is Not A Cat, Guess How Much I Love You, Kuu Kuu Harajuku, Fanshaw and Crudnut, The Jar Dwellers, Dogstar, The Day My Butt Went Psycho, Yakkity Yak, Beat Bugs, Pearlie, Winston Steinburger & Sir Dudley Ding Dong and H2O–Just Add Water screening across more than 180 territories throughout the world and attracting many millions of dollars in overseas production funding which supports Australian jobs and training. No other screen sector in Australia can boast these success stories.

Australian children’s screen producers are commercially savvy, forward thinking and above all we’re realists. We know where we need to get to, but we need rapid intervention from the Federal Government now, in the short term, to help us get there.

Finally, we care about our audiences and believe Australian children deserve to see themselves represented on screen. The Government’s decision to effectively shut down the production of local children’s content will have a detrimental impact on the Australian community and especially its children. We urge the Government to immediately amend the new policy settings and allow this dynamic sector to continue its success stories.

Australian Children’s Screen Producers

One Comment:

  1. The local industry can barely produce decent pre-school content, offering little for older children outside poor attempts at humour, in terms of cartoon series. Specially stories that go beyond learn a lesson, and offer on-going elements or serialised story. Even a popular series like The Deep fails to really go anywhere story wise.

    I find it interesting that Prisoner Zero was not mentioned, it was the last decent local cartoon series, that attempted a serialised story, and aimed at older children.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.