Quota suspensions brought uncertainty to hard hit industry

Australian producers were damaged by the suspension of local quotas during the pandemic

Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia yesterday told a House Standing Committee on Communications & the Arts, several key Government decisions both positively and negatively, set the course for the industry throughout 2020.

“The sector was significantly disrupted by the decision in April last year to suspend quotas for commercial free-to-air and subscription television at the height of pandemic disruption. It had an immediate impact on commissioning activity freezing well developed projects and everything in between. The uncertainty it injected into the market was damaging for the sector, just as it was looking to aid economic recovery and keep people working. It was not a path any other territory took. The decision was made without any dialogue with us or any affected production business,” he said.

“And for our Children’s producers this had been the culmination of months of frozen activity by commercial broadcasters as they played a game of brinkmanship with the Government in their refusal to commission children’s content and any new drama content prior to the pandemic hitting Australia, which cost our sector millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs in the process.

“Industry was, however, greatly assisted by the Government’s willingness to assist with visa entry assistance for critical personnel needed to resume or commence screen projects and while there was no proper task force or fulsome collaborative structure to collect data or co-ordinate deep engagement and strategies for the sector, there was a successful project built by industry and government together in the creation of industry protocols. States and territories also stepped in to fill gaps very successfully.”

SPA welcomed the release in November last year of a Media Reform Green Paper, which includes proposals which would apply minimum Australian content requirements on streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney +, Apple and others.

It is also awaiting the implementation of the major reforms announced by the Government in September 2020.

Deaner added, “If the pandemic has taught us anything, as an industry it has taught us the value of having our own house in order, in order for us to have success independent of what happens in other markets and countries. We therefore need the Government’s focus to be on strengthening the local sector and ensuring it is robust in its own right.”

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