The Australian government has unveiled a revamped content quota system and announced an A$53 million ($38 million) injection of funds into the development and production of local film and television as part of the 2020-21 federal budget.
The funding injection includes A$30 million for Screen Australia over the next two years to support the production of Australia drama, documentary and film and TV content. “Screen Australia will also receive an additional A$3 million over three years to establish a competitive grants program to cultivate quality Australian screenwriting and script development,” according to Paul Fletcher, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts.
The Australian Children’s Television Foundation will receive A$20 million over two years for the development, production and distribution of kids’ content.
The government also announced that the Producer Offset will be set at 30 percent for all domestic film and television production. “The old approach of treating film and television differently no longer makes sense,” Minister Fletcher said. “Increasing the offset to 30 percent for television will mean additional funding for Australian television production—and in turn support higher production values and programs with a better prospect of being sold into the global content market, taking advantage of the opportunity created by the explosion of streaming video services like Netflix, Disney+, Stan and Amazon Prime.”
Meanwhile, the Australian content rules for broadcasters are being simplified, beginning January 1, 2021. The quotas on drama, documentaries and children’s content were suspended this year as an emergency response to COVID-19. Beginning next year, content will count towards the new requirement if it is either drama, children’s content or documentary content—”the particular mix chosen will be a matter for each broadcaster based on its business strategy and judgement of audience appeal,” the government said in its announcement. There is a cap on the number of hours of documentary content that can be counted towards meeting the requirement.
Commercial broadcasters will continue to be required to provide 55 percent overall Australian content on their primary channels between 6 a.m. and midnight, and to provide 1,460 hours of Australian content per year on their multi-channels. The points scheme underpinning the sub-quotas will give more points to higher-budget productions.
The government will also legislate to reduce the existing Australian content spend obligation on selected subscription television channels from 10 percent to 5 percent.
As for streamers entering the Australian market, the government says it will continue to examine if they should be subject to content spend obligations. The biggest ones will be asked to commence reporting to the Australian Communications and Media Authority on Australian content acquisition from next year.
“The views of stakeholders and interested parties were very clear—we need to continue our support for the production of Australian content, but we also need to remove unsustainable obligations on industry and tailor our interventions to match the new and diverse ways Australian content is being produced and consumed,” Minister Fletcher concluded. “The measures announced today are designed to do just that.They begin to rebalance our regulatory framework and provide Australians with the opportunity to access Australian content across a range of media, regardless of whether they want to watch free-to-air television, subscription television or streaming services.”