Draft guidelines for Screen Australia’s ‘small screen’ funding released

Press Release from MediaNet

Screen Australia today released draft guidelines for its support of ‘small screen’ content production with convergence as a key focus.

The guidelines cover documentary, drama, children’s drama and non-linear (interactive) storytelling for television, online and mobile platforms, and will direct approximately $40 million of production investment annually into the industry.

“On the eve of the convergence review, these programs provide greater opportunities for compelling Australian storytelling and will help to ensure that Australian content has a strong presence in the new converged media environment,” said Screen Australia’s Chief Executive Ruth Harley.

“Our aim in formulating the guidelines has been to balance our desire to provide flexibility for both producers and broadcasters in the new environment with the need for clarity and certainty.”

Acknowledging the convergence of traditional broadcast, mobile telecommunications and the online world, Screen Australia’s proposed guidelines for small-screen funding comprise two streams: Convergent Television and All Media.

The All Media Programs will build on Screen Australia’s current Innovation Program with an increase in funding from $1 million to $3-5 million in 2011/12.

They comprise:
• Digital Ignition, providing development support for innovative interactive projects including games with a strong storytelling component, as well as an annual targeted workshop; and
• All Media Production, providing production support for interactive projects including those which have received Digital Ignition funding, as well as for innovative, risk-taking linear storytelling.

“Given the rapid expansion of digital television channels, we hope that the All Media Programs provide scope for greater risk-taking, new talent development and break-out programs,” said Dr Harley.

“These programs also provide enormous opportunity for exploring new ways of nonlinear storytelling.”

Convergent Television will provide $30-35 million for quality documentary and drama projects, generally requiring a broadcaster to be attached. Projects are also expected to be made available on at least one digital media platform other than broadcast television (free-to-air or subscription).

Two drama programs will be offered: TV Drama and Children’s TV Drama.

The documentary programs will comprise:
• Two domestic programs:
– the General Documentary Program, creating culturally relevant documentaries for the Australian market
– the National Documentary Program, focused particularly on a strategic slate of projects with themes of national significance and heritage value
• A standalone International Program, with a lower minimum domestic licence fee requirement, and an international presale comprising a minimum proportion of the budget.
• A Signature Documentary Program (building on the current Special Documentary Fund), without a requirement for a broadcaster attachment, with funding increased slightly to support individual creative vision and innovation.

Funds from the former ‘Making History’ initiative with the ABC have been incorporated into the National Documentary Program, making them available to all broadcasters, including the ABC. “Importantly, the National Documentary Program has a ‘National History and Identity’ core content area and this will ensure history programs of quality and ambition will continue to be broadcast across more platforms,” said Dr Harley.

“The draft guidelines were informed by extensive consultation with industry. As a result of this process, we’ve taken on board industry concerns in many areas and clarified our reasoning in others.”

Key changes to these programs in response to industry feedback include:

• Relaxation of the blanket exclusion of foreign formats, with preference now given to original formats over programs based on foreign formats.
• Change to the provision that no more than two series of a project would be funded. Up to 26 broadcast hours will now be eligible, which may include multiple series.
• Greater flexibility for producers in negotiating holdback provisions for both drama and documentary, and greater flexibility around minimum licence fees and secondary runs for children’s drama.
• Greater certainty through specifying an indicative allocation of funds in the domestic documentary programs (NDP and GDP). The indicative allocation is 50 per cent to the ABC, 40 per cent to SBS and 10 per cent to ‘other’ including commercial broadcasters and subscription television channels.

“These programs directly respond to the new challenges of convergence,” Dr Harley said.

“We recognise the invaluable contribution Australian stories make to our cultural identity and we will continue to support Australians having the choice to view Australian stories on our screens.”

The draft guidelines are available from