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Govt drops bill to cut Foxtel drama

Coalition Senators break ranks to join with Labor & Greens in rejecting push to reduce Foxtel's local drama quota.

A proposal to allow Foxtel to reduce their local drama commitment has been unanimously rejected in a Senate report tabled today.

Coalition senators broke ranks to back a position held by Labor and the Greens, unanimously rejecting the move by Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher to halve the scripted content obligation for subscription broadcasters.

Under the New Eligible Drama Expenditure scheme, Foxtel is required to spend at least 10% of total program expenditure on new Australian drama programs. An amendment to the Broadcasting Legislation Act would have seen this reduce to 5%, with Foxtel arguing for more flexibility to spend on other genres including lifestyle, documentary and entertainment.

Labor MPs Tony Burke, Michelle Rowland and Senator Anne Urqhuart said in a statement, “If Mr. Morrison and Mr. Fletcher got their way it would mean fewer Australian stories on our screens and fewer jobs for Australian creators.

“What kind of government wants to make it harder for Australian creatives after the horror year they’ve just endured?

“It’s the latest in a string of attacks on local content following cuts to the ABC, the watering down of free-to-air commercial TV content obligations and their stubborn refusal to regulate streaming services.”

Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner said, “These are sensible findings, and we thank the Committee for its careful consideration of these complex issues. There is an in-depth policy discussion currently going on about the best way in which to modernise and future-proof Australian content regulation and the role of highly profitable and popular streaming services in delivering Australian content to their audiences.

“We think it’s right that any further cuts to Australian content rules on traditional media are held back until we understand what rules will apply to services like Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.”

But while Foxtel has local drama obligations that new Streaming platforms do not, the issue will now be examined as part of a wider media reform green paper.

A Foxtel spokesperson said, “We understand the Committee’s view that reforms to Foxtel’s drama obligation are better dealt with as part of a holistic approach to reform.

“While there is much to do, we believed the Government’s Australian Screen Content Package announced last September recognised a broad range of needs. In addition to the proposed reduction in the subscription television drama obligation, the screen sector received an additional $53 million in funding and improvements to the Producer Offset, while free to air television also benefitted from simplified Australian content rules.

“As the Government and the Committee have identified, there remains an urgent need to have a more level playing field for local subscription television.

“Our view is these historical drama obligations have the effect of favouring new global streaming giants ahead of local players, and they distort investment in Australian stories away from genres that our subscribers want to watch.”

7 Responses

  1. Love My Way and Tangle were good and commercially sucessful, then they introduced quotas. Since then the only dramas I enjoyed were Deadline Gallipoli, which as an interesting way of telling the story on a low budget, and A Place To Call Home (if you are going to count the end of it as Foxtel). Upright and Mr Inbetween are very good comedies and will likely make a profit.

  2. There are a couple of points I can see, firstly if there are economic imposts put on streaming companies to increase local content, content which prospectively may have limited appeal outside of Australia, it will increase costs for subscribers, this has already happened in Europe.
    Secondly making content with universal appeal should be encouraged, nordic countries already do this quite successfully and sometimes get their shows and movies copied in the USA and elsewhere.
    Australian produced shows that may be too focused on parochial matters ignores the plot diversification needed to sell their entertainment overseas, successful shows like Mr. Inbetween is a good example of the producers understanding what has the best potential for global marketing.

  3. Anna Coren, blast from the past, whatever happened to her? Didn’t she go overseas or something, seem to recall her occssionally appearing on Sunrise or something with a special live-cross in years since.

    Only time I came across her was the very end of TT when she’d give us the Weather report to a music bed right before Home and Away (its peak days when I used to enjoy the drama – the era of: end of Kate Richie / Chris Hemsworth / start of Lincoln Lewis).

    Did TT under Coren rate well (vs Tracy in her first few years at the helm of ACA I think)? And then came Matt White, a sport guy, even more left of field! Show was never quite the same after Naomi Robson’s absolute bombshell at the end of 2006.

  4. What a backward step it would be. Now more than ever we need content requirements on the streaming services, they are broadcast television networks and should be treated the same as Foxtel, Seven, Nine and Ten etc

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