Lingo Pictures’ Helen Bowden favours all-platforms funding model

Helen Bowden.

Lingo Pictures MD Helen Bowden today called on the Federal Government to adopt the model set out in the Screen Australia/ACMA options paper which would require all commercial networks, pay channels and SVOD services to invest a percentage of their revenues in new Australian content.

Option 3 would also mean more funding for children’s programming for the ABC and SBS to offset the likely reduction in kids’ content on commercial networks, and harmonising the Producer, Location and PDV offsets at a single rate across all platforms.

But Bowden added the caveat that networks should not be told to fund a specific number of hours, arguing: “They can choose to do what works for them; they know their businesses.”

In a web session with Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner, Bowden suggested that model could also apply to the broadcasters’ catch-up platforms as linear viewing continues to decline.

Deaner asked whether specifying a level of expenditure rather than number of hours would run the risk that more money will be given to fewer productions, resulting in fewer jobs and opportunities for creative talent development.

She acknowledged that risk but said she believes the cash-strapped networks are keen to see a higher volume of Australian production, co-funded by international players.

“It’s about creating a bigger pie, which means more for everyone,” she said, while citing Foxtel’s commissioning of dramas including Wentworth, A Place to Call Home and Lingo Pictures’ Lambs of God as examples of smart investment.

Bowden, whose latest production The Secrets She Keeps premieres tomorrow on Network 10, expressed the commonly held fear that the suspension of the local content quotas will continue next year.

If that happens, she warned, there is a real threat to the viability of Lingo Pictures and other production companies.

While she welcomed increased funding for development from Screen Australia and the state agencies, she said: “It’s all very well doing lots of development but there won’t be any customers unless we get this problem solved.

“We need to strike now. We have moved past the point where people don’t want to regulate the streamers and similar international behemoths, who are very poor corporate citizens.”

Bowden was encouraged by the government’s move to force Google, Facebook and other international digital platforms to pay Australian media companies for sharing news content under a mandatory code which the ACCC will prepare and enforce.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg flagged two options for calculating the scale of payments: The tech titans would pay a fraction of the cost of producing the original content every time that they use it; or calculating the value each digital platform gets from getting eyeballs to their site by using that content.

Either way, he said the sums paid by the digital platforms would run to millions of dollars.

Deaner observed that option 3, in essence, was recommended by the 2012 Convergence Review commissioned by the Labor government. SPA’s director of policy Holly Brimble will present a policy paper on the options this Friday.