2021 Content Quotas: Soaps deliver, but Kids TV in freefall.

The numbers are in. With a Children's TV quota removed in 2021, networks drastically reduced their output.

Free to Air networks Seven, Nine and 10 have exceeded minimum quotas in local content for 2021 -but Children’s Television has taken a hit after it was removed as a requirement.

During the pandemic the Morrison Government overhauled content requirements introducing ‘flexibility’ for networks to meet 250 annual points through drama (adult and/ or children’s) and documentary -the latter capped at 50 points to prevent Reality TV dominating.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Commercial Television Compliance report marks the first year under the new system.

Good news…. all networks reported transmiting the required 55% Australian programming between 6am and midnight on their primary channels.

An ‘Australian program’ is one that is produced under the creative control of Australians. This may include having Australian producers, directors, writers and cast. NZ productions are also included under the Free Trade Agreement, a point of consternation for local producers.

More good news…. overall Drama is up on the pandemic devastation of 2020 .

But the bad news… it’s still down on pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

In Children’s Television it’s baaaad news.

In 2019 when the Children’s Quota was mandated, all networks met the minimum 130 hours C programming. After its removal the numbers paint a stark situation.

In 2021 Nine screened 47 hrs, 10 screened 40 hours while Seven screened just 6.5 hrs.

Seven produced no Australian-made Children’s Drama or Non-Drama, with just one live action from NZ (Mystic).

Nine produced 2 animated Children’s Drama titles (Alice Miranda, Space Nova), one live Children’s action (The Gamers 2037) and 2 x Non-Drama (Smashdown!, Search for the G.O.A.T.).

10 produced 2 live action Children’s Drama (Dive Club, The Bureau of Magical Things) and 1 in Non Drama (Totally Wild).

Meanwhile, Soap proved to be the single most valuable asset.

Home & Away accrued 180 points (across two series) of Seven’s minimum 250 points.

Neighbours delivered 10 network 168 points of the 250 minimum, something it will need to strategically address following the show’s demise (it’s possible – Nine has been without a serial for decades).

Other Drama heavweights in points included RFDS, Australian Gangster, Doctor Doctor, Amazing Grace, Lie with Me and How to Stay Married -only one is formally renewed for 2023: RFDS.

With the change in how points are constructed, a year on year comparison is not straightforward.

But the challenge for the industry may be in meeting pre-pandemic levels in commissions and production. This comes at a time when there are yet to be minimum quotas legislated for the Streaming sector.

Local Content:

All networks are normally required to broadcast a minimum of 55% in local content on their primary channel from 6am – midnight (NB: this can span many genres including News, Reality, Light Entertainment etc).

Nine broadcast the most at 77%, the highest at TCN Sydney (2020 74%)

Seven was next at 74% HSV Melbourne the highest (2020 76%)

10 was third at 68%, ATV Melbourne the highest (2020 67%)


Networks are required to screen 250 points* in first release content across their network (primary + multichannels).

  • First-release Australian programs are either commissioned Australian drama (including children’s drama), commissioned Australian documentary (capped at 50 points annually), commissioned Australian children’s non-drama programs, or acquired Australian films.

All networks met the annual points quota:

  • Seven Network: 374 points total / 346 drama  (2020: 256 drama)
  • 10 Network: 370 points  total / 340 drama (2020: 234 drama)
  • Nine Network: 271 points total  / 230 drama (2020: 182 drama)

Average hours of first release commissioned programs and acquired films broadcast by metropolitan licensees in 2021 were:

  • Seven Network: 192 hours.
  • 10 Network: 187.7 hours
  • Nine Network: 113.2 hours.

* Points allocation across genres

Genre Points per hour broadcast
Commissioned first release Australian documentary program (capped at a maximum 50 points per calendar year) 1
Commissioned first release Australian children’s program (non-drama) 1.5
Commissioned first release Australian drama program (less than or equal to $450,000 production budget per hour) 1.5
Commissioned first release Australian drama program (more than $450,000 up to $700,000 production budget per hour) 4
Commissioned first release Australian drama program (more than $700,000 up to $1,000,000 production budget per hour) 5
Commissioned first release Australian drama program (more than $1,000,000 up to $1,400,000 production budget per hour) 6
Commissioned first release Australian drama program (more than $1,400,000 production budget per hour) 7
Acquired first release Australian film (licence fee per film less than $50,000) 1
Acquired first release Australian film (licence fee per film equal to or more than $50,000) 2

2021 first release Australian programs claiming points:


Home And Away (s33)
Home And Away (s34)
Australian Gangster
Mystic (NZ)
Fat Pizza: Back In Business
Australia’s Sexiest Tradie
Storm Boy
Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan
The Tender Trap (NZ)
Shark Alarm: Year Of Swimming Dangerously
Border Security-Australia’s Front Line
Border Security-Australia’s Front Line
Outback Truckers
Aussie Salvage Squad
Homicide: With Ron lddles
Code 1: Minute By Minute
Ivan Milat Buried Secrets
Disappearance Of William Tyrrell

Proportion of NZ Drama: 13.24%. Mystic, The Tender Trap. (2020: 19.10%)


How To Stay Married
Lie With Me
The Bureau of Magical Things
Dive Club
Totally Wild
Bondi Rescue
Territory Cops
The Project Presents 9/11:
20 Years On
The Dog House Australia
Mirror, Mirror
Ride Like A Girl
Me & My Left Brain

Proportion of NZ Drama: 0.0% (2020: 0.0%)


Doctor Doctor
Amazing Grace
Metro Sexual
Space Nova
Alice Miranda
The Gamers 2037
Search for the G.O.A.T
Australian Crime Stories
My Way (s2)
My Way (s2)
Life in Colour

Proportion of NZ Drama: 0.0% (2020: 52.84%)

There were also results for multichannels, to be published separately.

Michelle Rowland, Minister for Communications:

“This is the first time the commercial metropolitan networks have reported under the new Australian Content and Children’s Television Standards 2020 which commenced on 1 January 2021. Aggregated program expenditure has increased slightly but has not yet returned to pre-COVID levels.

“Most starkly, total broadcast hours and expenditure on first release children’s screen content – both drama and non-drama – have decreased significantly. While this was expected as a result of the changes under the Australian Content and Children’s Television Standards, it is disappointing. It means there is much less Australian children’s content being produced and made available.

“The Government is committed to reviewing Australian content policy settings as part of the National Cultural Policy. Consultation is currently under way, with submissions due by 22 August 2022.”

Shadow Minister for the Arts, Paul Fletcher and Shadow Minister for Communications, Sarah Henderson:

“Australian families rightly count on there being a wide range of children’s programming across different broadcasting platforms available for their children and it’s disturbing that Labor Ministers Tony Burke and Michelle Rowland seem unable to understand this fact.

“Labor this week claimed that the Commercial Television 2021 Compliance Report shows a reduction in content broadcast for Australian children, but astoundingly failed to notice that Australian children’s television programming is being produced and shown across ABC, SBS and the many streaming services such as Netflix, Stan and Disney.

“Evidently Ministers Burke and Rowland were not paying attention when the Coalition Government in 2020 updated the outdated existing quota framework for drama, children’s programs and documentaries on commercial television, replacing it with a combined quota across all three categories.

“And there was a good reason for this change, namely that the evidence showed very few children were watching children’s television on the commercial free to air television networks. Instead they were watching children’s TV on the ABC and streaming services.

That change was part of a coordinated suite of measures including:
• $20 million extra funding to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, allowing more children’s content to be produced;
• $30 million extra funding for Screen Australia;
• An increase in the Producer offset for television from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, improving the economics for producers of Australian television including children’s television;
• Large streaming video services in Australia reporting to the ACMA on their level of investment in Australia content.

“Following further policy work, while in Government we also announced that we would legislate a Ministerial power to impose an Australian content spend requirement for streaming video on demand services, and a requirement for the ABC and SBS to report on their Australian content in the same manner as commercial networks are required to.

“It is very odd that at the moment there is no such requirement for the national broadcasters. Of course if the ABC and SBS data were available it would allow sensible, fact-based conclusions to be drawn in place of Labor’s ignorant claims.

“If Labor’s so called national cultural policy is going to reinstate a requirement on commercial free to air television networks to carry a specified number of hours of children’s television, even though very few children watch it, Mr Burke should come out and clearly say so.

“The key policy objective is to maximise the amount of high quality Australian children’s television content on platforms Australian children and their parents choose to watch – an objective which would be put at risk by such a measure.”

This post updates.

12 Responses

  1. Unsurprising you remove the requirement for children’s content and the children’s content goes.

    Not sure drama should be so skewed based on cost per hour either – budget doesn’t equate to quality or it’s contribution to the industry and there needs to be a space for lower cost mass produced content too in rider to break through new talent.

  2. They always seem to exceed their quota but like others have said here, NZ content should not count unless its an actual Australian production done in NZ. I know times have changed but people do watch on catch up too. Bluey is the prime example. Huge catchup numbers and also its another reason why tv networks should be investing and producing kids tv but just because we have ABCKids doesn’t mean the others should be producing nothing. Its sad kids tv has dropped off. I would love to see that quota brought back.

  3. Most Australian families would disagree with Ministers Fletcher and Henderson…even with ABC, SBS, Netflix, Stan and Disney, there’s clearly significantly less Australian children’s television being made.
    Clearly the shadow ministers haven’t been watching enough, if any, children’s television.

  4. The networks have always met or exceeded their quotas. The only action the ACMA can take if they don’t is to cancel their licences. The only network that would have failed to meet them would be the ABC during the 80s and 90s when it showed just about everything the BBC made through an output deal, but the ABC has always used its independence to block any attempts to impose them. Now that foreign drama and comedy doesn’t rate well, and costs more, nobody is going to make much money dumping local drama for foreign anymore. Out of all that TV I enjoyed Life In Colour, (UK/Australian), Doctor, Doctor and RFDS, and watched the first ep of Lie With Me (UK/Australian production.

    1. ABC Kids, ABC ME, Netflix, CeeBees, Nickelodeon. My nephews and nieces have no problems finding suitable TV to watch. without ever being allowed to watch 7,9 or 10 by their parents. They do recolonise the need, it’s why they tipped an extra $20m a year in the CTF to make more.

    2. It’s a poor one. There’s less work, less ideas, less talent development. When that argument was originally floated it was also about the same $$ commercials spent being pooled to ABC Children’s. Australia has a world-renowned legacy of making Children’s TV. The LNP argument that kids were not watching on commercial TV overlooks the point those shows were usually buried, premieres at 11am Sunday on a multichannel etc.

      1. Some of the best children’s TV was on commercial networks. A*mazing, Mission Top Secret, Parallax, Pick Your Face and more. It’s viability and there could be compensation or grants to the networks provided to offset viability and the proliferation of more children’s channels coming about globally and subsequently to Australia like Cartoonito, Boomerang TV, Baby TV etc. In addition to other subscription channels, Disney channels, Nickelodeon etc.

        It’s one thing to give grants for the production, but could extend to the broadcasters to offset the different conditions nowadays.

  5. I think that NZ shows should not be included in the main quota as we need to keep our actors & technicians working here. Does NZ allow Australian shows to be included in their quotas.
    I also think that each channel should be required to broadcast at least 1 soap on the main channel or multichannels (including ABC & SBS) to develop a pool of actors writers directors & technicians.

    1. NZ has a voluntary 53% quota. However, like in Australia the networks were already showing more local content than that. It is after all their main business and revenue source.

    2. I don’t think that commissioning soaps in this day and age is a wise investment given that the genre relies on people randomly tuning in and watching regularly from thereon. Between low-budget slow-burn soaps with 240ish episode seasons and high-budget bingeable short-form series with countless more thrills per viewing hour, are there any guesses as to what modern audiences will gravitate to?

      Plus, Seven and Ten previously toyed with additional soaps during the 2000s (Headland and Out of the Blue respectively, both of which flopped and were burned off in off-peak timeslots). More recently, The Heights ran for 2 seasons on ABC (airing weekly rather than every weeknight), but ultimately failed to make an impact.

      Don’t get me wrong; I’m not necessarily opposed to the idea of seeing more soaps on screen, but it’s a dying genre, with many US soaps having bitten the dust in recent years, and in Australia at least, Home & Away is the last man standing.

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