Screen Forever 2023: Hugh Marks: “Commercial networks have a distinctive lack of First Nations content”

Industry panel agrees public broadcasters are forging ahead with Indigenous drama, with some finding broad success.

Former Nine CEO Hugh Marks says Free to Air networks have a distinctive lack of First Nations content while much of Australian drama is moving behind paywalls.

Marks, now Co-CEO of Dreamchaser Entertainment, was speaking at a Q+A session around Australian culture on screen, at Screen Forever this week.

A panel, moderated by Fran Kelly, tackled questions around whether Australia is sliding inexorably into making more content for global citizens, at the expense of our own culture.

Angela Bates, Screen Australia’s First Nations Department said, “I think ABC do a fantastic job at commissiong great quality Australian drama and Mystery Road is proof of that. It is proof of how our First Nations Stories have really traveled the world. The second series had its world premiere, at the Berlinale and that same year, it was listed in the New York Times as a Top 20 International TV show.

“So I feel like we are mainstream, we are successful. But the bottom line is, because of all the government investment our First Nations Department is celebrating 30 years this year. That’s 30 years of investing, fostering talents growing our content and ensuring that we provide opportunities for our First Nations creators to tell stories from an authentic place. From our perspective. That’s the difference. We’re reaching a global audience, still doing local content that’s unique to us. But it’s no longer just relevant to a local audience,” she continued.

“I think it has been primarily ABC and SBS. But I’d like to say that other commissioners should take notice, to look to Mystery Road to that success and see the value in the programmes”

Hugh Marks of Dreamchaser Entertainment and formerly Nine Network CEO said, “Whilst commercial networks may not be doing as much Australian drama as they used to, they have migrated onto the streaming platforms. But the problem is you’ve got to pay for it. That’s what’s fundamentally changed over the last 3 years, let alone the last 10 years.

“In terms of First Nations and Indigenous drama I think the commercial networks have a distinctive lack of content in that space. A few of the things that have been mentioned today are going to change that.

“One is, as Angela said, the development of talent in that space to tell authentic stories. There’s got to be a breadth of talent that’s capable of telling those stories. That’s something (where) a lot of work has been put into. Now there are a number of people in that space you can rely upon to tell stories at the level that you want to make those things broad.”

5 Responses

  1. Wait… what? Didn’t that guy run a commercial network before he worked at Dreamcatcher? Could he have done something about adding to the amount of First Nations content?

  2. Indigenous people have their own network ( at taxpayer expense) and have a share rating of 0.3%. If people dont watch indigenous product on that network why should they watch it on FTA??

  3. I’d say just because there’s NITV, SBS PopAsia and SBS PopDesi, that doesn’t mean there doesn’t have to be Indigenous or other content on commercial TV.

    Demographics is key when it comes to ratings for commercial TV, therefore mixed or cross-cultural content would be suitable. Though I think there have been improvements.

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