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Australian screen content laws to be dealt a blow in new budget

While federal communications minister Paul Fletcher has tipped his hand ahead of next week’s reading of the 2020-21 budget regarding new investments in Australian film and television productions, the Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance (MEAA), Labor and the Greens have hit back to say that the government’s plans actually take Australian productions a few steps backward from previous years.

Fletcher unveiled his ministry’s plans on Wednesday, where he summarised the announcement of new funding and content packages as a “simplifying” of regulations that merges film and television productions under the same banner while deferring investments towards new productions overall.

“The Government is providing $30 million in funding to Screen Australia over two years to support the production of Australian drama, documentary and children’s film and television content,” Fletcher announced.

“Screen Australia will also receive an additional $3 million over three years to establish a competitive grants program to cultivate quality Australian screenwriting and script development.

“We are also providing $20 million to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation over two years to boost the development, production and distribution of high-quality Australian children’s content,” added Fletcher, as the core elements in his announcement regarding future funding of productions.

However, while the government’s new intentions under these packages possess the intent to represent more attractive content to market to overseas markets and to streaming providers such as Netflix, Stan, Disney+ and Amazon Prime, the MEAA – the union looking after the arts and entertainment sectors – fears that overall content for Australian audiences will be diluted.

Paul Murphy, the chief executive of the MEAA, has called out Fletcher and the Morrison government for not reining in the loose regulations that the streaming services now enjoy within Australia’s borders.

“How the Government has missed the boat on regulating streaming services and requiring set levels of Australian content each year defies belief. This government seems intent on deregulation rather than creating a playing field that is level for all,” said Murphy.

“Streaming services – yielding billions in income each year – will be celebrating that they have again avoided any content rules,” added Murphy.

Murphy also views Fletcher’s announcement as a bit of a trojan horse – using the buzzwords of “essential to Australia’s cultural identity” and “jobs and growth” to hide the fact that the sectors’ employees may not have enough work towards what may be feared to be a fewer allotment of overall productions.

“The new flexibility provided to Australian commercial television networks will also lead to fewer productions across the board,” Murphy said.

“Moving Foxtel and other subscription broadcast television broadcasters to five percent from ten percent of program expenditure for each drama channel just reflects a government that is not serious about the provision of quality Australian content for our growing nation,” added Murphy.

Meanwhile, a pair of key Labor shadow ministers have already pinned the potential impact of the government’s content plans as leaving Australians poorer off.

“For commercial TV, children’s content obligations are watered down. For Foxtel, content obligations have been halved. For streaming providers, there remains no obligation at all. That leaves just the ABC – which has been the target of constant Liberal cuts over the last seven years,” said Tony Burke, who looks after the ALP’s arts portfolio.

And Michelle Rowland, the ALP’s shadow communications minister, has said that Fletcher and the government have failed to meet their obligations to allow the domestic film and television industries to adapt to a changing environment.

“He has failed the creators and small businesses that comprise the screen sector. He has failed Australians who want more Australian stories,” said Rowland.

“He has even failed his own test. Fletcher has previously announced he would harmonise the regulatory framework and address the disparity in regulation between broadcasters and online streaming services. But he has failed to deliver on that,” she added.

And Sarah Hanson-Young – who holds the communications portfolio for the Greens – has called upon the streaming providers to pay fairly for the right to carry all content within Australia, while Australian content and the jobs which produce them remain under siege.


Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young (Image from abc.net.au)


And actually has the potential to carry out the reverse intention that Fletcher wishes to protect and enhance.

“The Government has failed to deliver real reform… and has let the global steaming giants off the hook. This is a decision that if not corrected, will cost local jobs and undermine Australia’s creative and cultural heritage,” Hanson-Young said.

“The Government’s reforms to local content quotas must result in more quality Australian stories on our screens, not less. This will only happen if the global streaming giants are regulated properly,” she added.

Fletcher cited that the items announced have come as a result of consultations received in the government’s “Supporting Australian Stories On Our Screens” discussion paper released as a joint endeavour between the government and Screen Australia in March, as a response to the three-part digital platform inquiry undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“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,” said Fletcher.

However, Hanson-Young claims that while domestic broadcasters are still required to provide 55 percent overall Australian content on their primary channels between 6:00am and midnight, and to provide 1,460 hours of Australian content per year on their multi-channels, Australian audiences – including that for children’s programming – may suffer from an overall lack of quality.

“Without legal requirements on the global giants, our screens and children’s devices will become even more clogged with trashy, cheap shows from America. Our Aussie kids deserve better than this,” Hanson-Young said.

“The Greens will fight for local content requirements on streaming services to be legislated.

“Research shows two thirds of Australians support laws requiring streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to show and fund locally-made shows and films – this was a no-brainer and the Morrison Government has missed it,” added Hanson-Young.

“This Government talks a big game about levelling the playing field with the so-called ‘digital giants’, but it has baulked at actually doing so,” concurs Rowland.

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  1. Phil Pryor

    Australian T V is owned and run by rapacious maggots, profiteering and prostituting local culture to garbage from elsewhare. Endless dogshit T V, ridiculous raving ratbag radio, mind dissolving media and advertising, where can we turn for light, fun, reality, culture? My local member, Paul Fingers-Sausage is a dropped in pommy reject, aiming to line his nest, a bumboy for corporate and assorted right wing interest, always with Murdoch’s maggoty misfits behind. The controllers of information and image ruin and wreck intelligent participation in society. We get and have a rotten emptiness in decent discussion and decision making now. It will decline more.

  2. wam

    A beaut read, william
    It is a tragedy, with the rubbish foxtel gets away with showing, I can imagine netflex to be worse for unwatchable septic refuse..
    Australian tv shows seem to be descending into actorless stodge with occasional great shows mainly on the ABC because commercials are hamstrung by advertisers.
    However the wiki list is worth a look for series on unwatched commercial channels

    13 of the 30 films grossing over $11m were from last century and the septic tank films like avatar and stat wars gross 10 times that.. I have written to qantas for 40 years about an australian movie on its overseas jet channels
    cate blanchette many series like GP (have a gigle at kaboria)
    hugh jackman blue heelers
    rush, crowe bana , kidman, collette pierce, weaving wenham and dozens all big stars who learned their trade in australian shows.
    Sack and outsource is the lnp way it has been so disastrous for workers but equally so successful for the government that is beyond my ken.
    Maybe trump will cock up so badly that capitalism will collapse and transport, power government will be ours again.
    Phil you certainly sum up the murdoch political sycophants

  3. Michael Taylor

    wam, you’ll change your mind when you find out who William supports. (Hint: 🐈)

  4. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    My 6 year old grandson – Miles (Mum, why did you call me Miles?
    Why? What would you like to be called?
    Robbie Gray!) – is apparently beside himself at the moment, with the Power on soon,and a full moon…
    I’m a bit nervous myself.

    Sorry, footie haters. I quite understand your irritation. But just this once, and without malice aforethought – sod the lot of you!

  5. Brozza

    The Oz gummint, touching their toes sans pants for overseas vested interests, again.
    Business as usual.

  6. Mark Shields

    HOOPLA DOOPLA; another bunch of Chinese propagandist TV bullshit made for children! Really got to ask why ABC TV is co-funding this pathetic so called children’s TV program, Hoopla-Doopla? From what I can see this useless piece of CCP propaganda has nothing to offer Australian multicultural education for toddlers. Instead, it looks like a “Be Kind to Chinese” people because they are subjects of the almighty CCP. SHAME ON ABC FOR NOT CONNECTING POLITICAL OBJECTIVES WITH HEGEMONIC OUTCOMES! Shame on ABC for being so weakly supportive of Chinese Communism.

  7. wam

    hooray hooray hooray the cats and the yellow tried but were not good enough
    two to go

  8. Jack Cade

    Mark Shields

    You’re on the wrong site mate. We don’t watch Children’s TV. Try the low IQ Murdoch rags.

  9. John Lord

    The government has an obligation to protect the cultural heritage of our country but the Americianization of our country continues.

  10. Henry Rodrigues

    One way to thwart Murdoch and the commercial channels and now even the ABC, is to never ever subscribe to Foxtel. Never !!!
    To the ABC’s credit they do show some intelligent series and documentaries, but they are beholden to Scummo for their existence. Nevertheless, some show of backbone and independence will restore some respect.

  11. DrakeN

    John Lord,

    Cultural heritage took a headlong plunge after 1788.

    “…but the Americianization of our country continues.” says he, using an USofA form of spelling 😉

    Anyway the septics have had a profound influence on white occupation of this land beginning in the days of the whaling fleets from North America.
    One of their worst influences has been the creation of Fosters Lager.

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