ACTF receives $11.9m boost in Federal Budget

Jenny Buckland.

A multi-year funding commitment for the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) headlined support for the screen industry in last night’s Federal Budget.

With the Treasury having already released details of a 30 per cent Digital Games Tax Offset, as well as a $2 million boost to the National Film and Sound Archive in the past week, one of the key take-outs for the sector on Tuesday was the allocation of $11.9 million over four years from 2021/22 (and $3 million per year ongoing) towards the ACTF.

It comes after the government announced $20 million for the organisation over two years in last October’s Budget, which also saw the removal of fixed content quotas for children’s programming on free-to-air television.

Speaking to IF, ACTF CEO Jenny Buckland said the funds “locked in” operational funding that had previously been delivered on a year-by-year basis.

“We’ve been provided with certainty and that means that we can guarantee to spend the entire $20 million over two years from July 1 on investing in content, as we had intended,” she said.

Buckland said increased investment from ABC and Screen Australia, along with state and territory governments, combined with the impending increase of the TV Producer Offset to 30 per cent, had helped to reshape the climate of children’s content in the wake of the quotas being removed.

“Ensuring there is a big enough local market for children’s content is the key challenge,” she said.

“So far, in addition to the ABC really stepping up, NITV is very committed to kids and there are also some encouraging signs from streamers, and Channel 10 is indicating it’s staying in the children’s drama space.

The Green Paper looking at regulatory reform and whether we end up with obligations on SVODs is therefore the significant issue of the moment.”

A notable omission from last night’s Budget was the place of the ABC in government’s financial plans.

SBS received $29 million towards additional language services, but there was no word on the future of ABC’s $44 million annual enhanced local and regional news-gathering program, which expires next year.

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) chief executive Paul Murphy said the program’s importance should not be understated.

“Overall, funding of public broadcasters will fall in real terms with nothing to replace the massive cuts since 2013,” he said.

“The expected cessation of the regional and local news-gathering funding is short-sighted and will hurt those communities it is meant to help.”

Elsewhere, the government committed $3.3 million over two years to Ausfilm via funds redirected from the Location Incentive Program (LIP), into which it pumped $400 million last year.

The measures announced last night join COVID relief packages for the cultural and creative sectors that have already been unveiled, including $50 million to extend the Temporary Interruption Fund (TIF) until the end of 2021; $20 million to support independent cinemas; $125 million in grants to extend the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) Fund; $10 million for the Support Act and $5 million for Playing Australia Regional Recovery Investment program; $75 million to reinstate the Producer Offset to 40 per cent for feature films; and $11.4 million to support the recovery of regional arts events in 2021-22.

In regards to the TIF, the government has also announced $800,000 for Screen Australia to cover fees associated with the fund.