Producers slam “hypocritical” networks as Australian Children’s TV plummets

Commercial networks are flooding children's TV with mostly American shows -that's if they screen any Kids TV at all- says Screen Producers Australia.

Screen Producers Australia have hit out at Commercial Free to Air Networks seeking extensions to industry protection whilst scaling back on Children’s Drama, after the former government dropped sub-quotas.

New figures from the Australian Communications and Media Authority on content transmission quotas highlight how Seven, Nine and 10 have culled Australian Children’s TV including in 2021.

“I do not know how anyone could look at these figures and say that the Australian public is being well served by the current regulation of our commercial broadcasters,” SPA CEO Matt Deaner said.

“The data in particular shows the effect of a lack of any current requirement to screen any minimum Australian children’s content – overturning a long-standing broadcasting content principle and leading to what is now a collapse of the Australian children’s content industry.

“It is hypocritical for commercial free-to-air broadcasters to be asking government for extensions to their industry protection through the anti-siphoning framework on the basis of audience access while at the same time fighting to deny audiences access to range of other important content.”

In late 2020 the Morrison Government overhauled quotas giving networks the flexibility to meet 250 points (with a cap of 50 points on documentary) based on expenditure. It meant networks did not have to produce Children’s TV content. Prior to this networks had to meet strict sub-quotas in Children’s and Children’s Drama.

The following tables illustrate output hours under the former Australian Content Standard & Children’s Television Stand versus 2021’s Australian Content and Children’s Television Standards.

* quotas suspended in 2020 during pandemic.

The report follows last month’s figures showing compliance with the Australian Content and Children’s Television Standards  show an alarming drop across critical categories of Australian content on commercial free-to-air broadcasters.

“Surely it is just as important for Australian kids to see their own local stories on free-tv channels as much as it is for them to see their sporting teams?” Deaner asked.

“Australian children 16 years and under make up 21% of the Australian population and deserve to see and hear themselves and their stories on these public services.

“In the context of Australia’s new National Cultural Policy currently under development, we need to seriously consider whether this is the right outcome that meets the social and cultural needs of the Australian public.

“Industry recognises the shift in viewing for all audiences towards streaming platforms and away from free-to-air.

“However, social equity considerations mean that there is a strong public interest consideration in ensuring that child audiences have access to a diverse range of quality programming both in front of paywalls as well as behind them.

“We know that around 30% of Australian households do not pay for streaming services so children in these homes are increasingly locked out of seeing their own unique stories on screen.

“The result of the previous governments deregulation of broadcasting content is no newly commissioned Australian children’s drama. These are the programs that give our kids an early appreciation for seeing their own stories, culture, and voices on screen.”

According to SPA at least one commercial network’s channel that broadcasts children’s programmes has an Australian content level that is below 5%. Instead they are being flooded with mostly American shows.

“SPA believes that new regulation is needed to ensure that if a commercial broadcaster programs for child audiences, then a reasonable and commensurate proportion of those hours and titles should be newly commissioned Australian stories,” said  Deaner.

“It simply can’t be all take and no give, as it is at present.

“It is a failing of our regulatory system to allow commercial broadcasters to abandon the needs of Australian child audiences and just leave it to public broadcasters to do the heavy lifting in investing in this work.

“We all know the budget pressures that have faced the ABC and SBS in recent years, leaving them constrained in their ability to address the huge investment shortfall that has been left when commercial broadcasters dropped their interest in commissioning Australian children’s titles.

“The evidence is clear and now it is up to the Australian Government, through the new National Cultural Policy, to tell us if this is good enough,” Deaner said.

This week Free TV Australia claimed Australian commercial TV contributes $2.5 billion to the nation’s GDP and said the Anti-Siphoning List needs to be extended and expanded to stop live and free sport disappearing exclusively behind paywalls.

Yesterday Seven and Foxtel secured AFL rights to 2031 at a price of $4.5b.

SPA: Children’s Content Factsheet

7 Responses

  1. Cry me a river, the SPA couldn’t care less as Children’s TV on FTA TV has overall literally died over the years. They are just upset their free sources of funding are ending, and the TV networks aren’t forced to pay for it anymore. Actual quality local content like Bluey or Prisoner Zero are extremely rare, compared to the overall output each year.

  2. Way to much American content on 7, 9 and 10 not just for kids but adults as well. It’s time to support Australian made content using our boundless talent we have in this country. It’s also time to ditch the reality genre and use the money to make watchable TV instead of paying a bunch of wannabes for their 15 minutes of fame. It’s time australia kept up and made decent shows. Take note production companies in this country of the excellent content that comes from the UK and Europe they know how it’s done.

  3. The elephant in the room is that kids spend way to much time sitting in front of screens already. This is a sedentary, passive activity that is bad for you, especially children. Watching less tv correlates with better physical and mental health, better social skills, better education and higher lifetime incomes. The idea that there is some sort of crisis because kids are no longer sitting in front of trashy commercial TV full of ads for merchandise all morning and afternoon is obviously ridiculous. There is no shortage of kids entertainment. The ABC, along with Screen Australia and CTF and in partnership with the BBC, CBC, Netflix and others are producing lots of good quality TV for all ages. Enough to provide 210 hours a week free, ad free on ABC2 and ABC3. What the SPA wants to restore is kids sitting front of ads from global toy and merchandise manufactures in the morning and all afteroon, because they can get a cut while falsely claiming it’s beneficial to kids.

  4. I’m a bit confused about this issue of commercial TV versus pay/streaming.
    Aren’t there two TV channels on FTA showing exclusively kids programs?
    When I was a kid, there were no exclusive kids channels on FTA. So isn’t there more kids content now than, say 10 or 20 years ago? Does it matter than its not on 7, 9 or 10 as long as its available to all?

    1. The majority of conent on the kids channel on FTA is repeats, there is actually much less new content for children shown now. Even worse, the majority of the little new content on commericial networks, is barely better than toy commericials.
      In the really old days we used to see cartoons from Disney (streaming only now), and Warner Bros (barely any new ones shown now), along with a decent variety from worldwide.

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