SPA rejects calls for cuts to Australian content quotas

March 25, 2020

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has urged the Government to reject suggestions reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that Australian content requirements for commercial television broadcasters should be cut.
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SPA rejects calls for cuts to Australian content quotas

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has urged the Government to reject suggestions reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald that Australian content requirements for commercial television broadcasters should be cut.

“Producers are acutely aware of the interruptions that COVD-19 will cause to the delivery of new Australian content to broadcasters. Producers are confronting the devastating impacts of project shutdowns right across the industry at present, with over 60 affected productions, and the likely consequence of complete business failures with extensive job losses,” stated SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.

“However, any Government response that involves reductions to annual content quotas would be excessive and deal a hammer blow to a production sector already on its knees.

We cannot see any burden shifted to the independent production sector. While we understand challenges the collective industry and economy is facing, this would simply compound problems – wiping out the production sector, removing small business and employment, stifling creativity and harming Australian culture.

SPA appreciates and supports the diligent and prudent manner in which the Government has responded to this crisis. However, we need the Government to respond in ways that will give industry the best possible chance of recovery when the crisis has passed. Wiping out a significant source of demand for content will have the opposite effect.

Regulatory forbearance should be on the basis of managing the impact of the delayed delivery of content, rather than broadcasters being able to put a cold stop on commissioning in the coming years.

A sensible alternative would be averaging flexibility for commercial free-to-air broadcasters across the next one to two years to reflect delayed or lack of delivery of new content. This would allow near term quota obligations to be deferred into following years, providing flexibility, without reducing the overall quantum of content delivered in the longer term.

Any regulatory forbearance or deferral should be considered on a case by case basis by the regulator, the ACMA and should be based on evidence of disruption to the expected pipeline of content delivery.

Crucially, this would ensure the return of demand into the production sector when the current crisis has eased. In order to return to health, the production sector will need a ‘heart start’ when production activity is able to resume. Importantly, we can also expect consumers to be hungry for relevant, locally produced content at this time, as we have already seen a spike in viewership numbers across commercial networks and subscription television as Australians begin to self-isolate and work from home,” continued Deaner.

SPA has put to Government a range of proposed measures that will help ensure production businesses affected by the pandemic will be in a position to resume operations at the appropriate time. These include activity from screen agencies to help keep businesses active throughout the period of shutdowns, as well as proposals which will stimulate demand and facilitate the resumption of activity in the recovery phase.