Without quotas in 2020 here’s what happened….

The good news: networks exceeded local content during a pandemic. The bad news: Drama & Kid's TV plunged.

With a global pandemic hitting the screen sector hard last year, Free to Air networks Seven, Nine and 10 were amongst those relieved of meeting normal content quotas for 2020.

The good news is they still far exceeded the quotas required in screening local content. They also exceeded the normal minimum requirement in Documentary.

But the more disappointing news was there were targets missed in Drama and Children’s Television.

Seven met the Drama quota, but was dismally low in Children’s TV.

10 just missed the annual quota in Drama, opting hold off Five Bedrooms after it resumed production, and fell short in Children’s TV overall.

Nine was well short in Drama and Children’s overall, and continued to draw upon over 50% of its Drama from New Zealand. But with production shortages networks had to be nimble to fill schedules.

However, numbers were much better in Pre-School content from Nine and 10.

The suspension of quotas comes despite Neighbours being one of the first dramas in the world to demonstrate it could maintain production through the worst of Lockdown. They also came at a time when Seven had publicly expressed a desire to halt Children’s Television altogether -it effectively did just that.

Bridget Fair CEO Free TV Australia said, “These results highlight that Australian content is part of the DNA of Free TV broadcasters and our point of difference with global streaming services.  In 2020, Australians relied on their free television services like never before.  Despite the challenges posed by COVID, including many productions and sporting competitions being suspended, commercial television broadcasters provided viewers with the local news, entertainment, drama and sports programming they needed to get through the pandemic.

“The Government and the ACMA recognised the need for flexibility on some quota obligations to address the impact on the production pipeline.  Free TV broadcasters have shown that even in the absence of quota requirements, their commitment to Australian content is at the heart of their business, and have over-delivered in many areas, including an average 70% of all content on primary channels being Australian.”

Matt Deaner CEO of Screen Producers Australia said, “SPA will continue to monitor the short, medium and long term impacts of changes to commercial free-to-air television quotas. We expect to see some wash through of the long tail of commissions put in place before deregulation, and there may be some commissioning activity prompted by the spectre of scrutiny arising from the planned review of the changes (to take place in mid-2022). Whilst there has been an immediate and abrupt disruption to children’s content (as the ACMA’s results shows) we expect we will see the full picture for all genres emerge over the next 6 to 12 months and beyond.”

Here are the results noting the quotas that were in play prior to suspension…

Local Content:

All networks are normally required to broadcast a minimum of 55% in local content on their primary channel from 6am – midnight. 

Seven broadcast the most, at up to 74.57%  for HSV7 Melbourne. (2019 79.78%).

Nine was next, at up to  73.81% for TCN9 Sydney (75.88%).

10 was third at up to 66.79% for ATV10 Melbourne (70.03%).


Networks are normally required to screen 250 points in first release Australian Drama across their network (primary + multichannels). A points system* is applied to Serial (1 point per hr), Series (2.5), Feature Film (2.5), Miniseries (4) and Telemovie (4).

Seven screened the most at 255.83 points for BTQ Brisbane (2019: 332.86).

10 was next at 234.13 points across all most licensees (315.08).

Nine was third with 181.67 points across several licensees (274.83).


Networks are normally required to screen 20 hours of first release Australian Documentary across their network.

Seven screened the most at 81.98 hours at TVW Perth (2019: 81.70)

Nine was next with 68.50 hours at GTV9 Melbourne (43.03).

10 was third with 22.00 hours equally at all licensees (40.17).


Networks are normally required to screen 130 hours of first release Australian children’s programs across their network.

10 screened the most at 109.50 hours (2019: 130 hours).

Nine screened 95 hours (130.5 hours)

Seven screened just 9 hours (130 hours)

Networks are also normally required to screen 25 hours of first release Australian children’s Drama across their network.

10 screened the most at 32.00 hours (2019: 32.00 hours).

Nine was next at 25 hours (32.50 hours)

Seven screened just 4 hours (33.50 hours).

All networks are normally required to screen 130 hours in Australian Pre-school programs.

Nine screened the most at 131 hours (2019: 130.50 hours).

10 followed at 102.50 hours (130.50 hours).

Seven screened 41.50 hours (130.50 hours)

NZ Content


Nine screened 52.84% of its total Drama from NZ. (2019:49.88%)

Seven screened up to 19.10% of its total Drama from NZ (10.57%)

10 screened 0% of its total Drama from NZ (5.42%)


Seven screened up to 14.64% of its total Documentary from NZ (2019: 6.42%).

Nine screened 0% of its total Documentary from NZ (0%).

10 screened 0% of its total Documentary from NZ (0%).

From 2021 networks have more flexibility in meeting local content obligations, which dispense with sub-quotas in Drama, Documentary and Children’s.

Networks will still have to meet 250 local points, through a complex system allocated to Series, Miniseries, Children’s, Movies, Documentary as they see fit -with the latter capped at 50 points (to avoid a saturation of Reality TV).

* Up to 2020.

10 Responses

  1. Does anyone have faith that this will continue post-covid? Many of our local shows have ramped up because we have the actors and crew here already, and there has also been goodwill to keep the arts sector running.

    When borders are back to normal, and the arts sector is back to regular employment, will the networks keep up the good work?

  2. Those Children’s quotas surely need to be reinstated – especially 7, who seems to be the biggest culprit in dropping almost all their children’s programs.

    9 and 10 really should have been backing the children’s shows more…they’ve had successes in the past, but I can’t see much more good coming in the future if they’re not investing in it.

  3. RE: Children’s TV. What absolute twaddle. All 3 free-to-air Networks have axed all of their local kids shows – at least 7 by my count – and shut their children’s departments. 10 is still commissioning series, but only those that will satisfy a CBS/10/Netflix tie up like ‘Dive Club’. The only Children’s producer that appears to have done well out of this is the ACTF – garnering 30 million from Government to produce kids TV. Funny about that, as that outcome is exactly what they proposed in their submission to the quota ‘inquiry’ a couple of years back. Not much hope anymore for projects independent of them. Vale Australian children’s TV.

  4. Funny that the US and UK can both still make drama work on free to air. Strange that the Aus networks feel there is a distinct problem with “their audiences” and the genre.

    1. Interpret that as you will, but European and US production companies are definitely more commercially proactive maintaining their markets and supplying the demand for various TV content as it develops.
      The UK has a history of adapting to dire economic circumstance, the origins of many a game show and most of today’s reality TV concepts originated from British budget television, the British penchant for liking serial detective / murder soaps kept many a well known actor employed.

      1. Drama costs to make, and Britain and the USA are far larger markets that are also able to export around the world-this rarely happens with our local stuff on any scale apart from the 2 soaps to Britain.

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