Australian drama to be ‘particularly healthy’ on Foxtel in 2022: Brian Walsh

Brian Walsh.

Australian drama may be nurtured at the public broadcasters but pay TV will push the envelope with the genre in 2022, Foxtel executive director of television Brian Walsh says.

Foxtel sought to renew its commitment to drama in the second half of last year via adaptations Love Me and The Twelve, which are based on series from Sweden and Belgium, respectively.

Love Me the first commission for streaming service Binge – premiered on Boxing Day with a cast including Hugo Weaving, Bojana Novakovic, Bob Morley, Heather Mitchell, Sarah Peirse, Celia Pacquola, William Lodder, Shalom Brune-Franklin and Mitzi Ruhlmann.

A similarly strong line-up was announced for The Twelve, a ten-part courtroom drama currently shooting in Sydney that is led by Sam Neill, Marta Dusseldorp, Kate Mulvany, Brooke Satchwell, and Hazem Shammas.

Both series are produced by Warner Bros. International Television Production Australia.

Joining The Twelve in Foxtel’s local slate for this year is Tim Minchin’s comedy-drama series Upright, which returns for a second season.

Looking ahead, Walsh told IF Australian drama would continue to be “particularly healthy in the pay TV universe”.

“Heading into 2022 I think commercial free-to-air TV will continue to rely on three primary genres: local news, sports, competition reality,” he said.

“The public broadcasters (notably the ABC) will continue to nurture Australian drama and that’s a sensible use of the taxpayer dollar.

Back are Brooke Satchwell (left) and Hazem Shammas (right). Front from left are Kate Mulvany, Sam Neill, and Marta Dusseldorp.

“The Foxtel Group, including Binge, is looking for stories that will pop, that will push the envelope, stir the imagination and stimulate our viewers with production values equal to that of the international supply chain.”

The announcement of the new dramas came after a proposal to halve subscription television’s local drama quota was blocked in federal parliament.

As part of amendments to the Broadcasting Legislation Act, Foxtel’s obligation under the New Eligible Drama Expenditure (NEDE) scheme would have been cut from 10 per cent of its annual programming spend to 5 per cent.

In June, a Senate committee recommended the legislation remains as is, while also calling on the government to “expedite a response” to the media reform green paper to “harmonise the regulatory framework for Australian content obligations”.

Walsh expected television production in the next 12 months to refocus on “great Australian storytelling and support for the local industry”.

“I think it’s imperative that the stories we tell resonate with Australian audiences first and foremost and support our creative community,” he said.

“It’s incumbent on all the local players to be respectful of our industry and give every show and Australian story room to work and the widest audience it can.

“This will lead to a stronger creative industry with greater cultural significance.”

He added that producers should think about pitching ideas that are uniquely Australian and will resonate with Aussie audiences.

“Stories that are special to us and special to Australia are ones that reflect ourselves on screen,” he said.

“It’s never been more important to tell our stories to pass on to future generations; stories that can only be written, created, and produced by Australians.”