Market-driven reform for a strong screen industry

The Australian Screen Council (ASC) today spoke out strongly in support of a market driven approach to building a profitable and sustainable screen industry. But there are caveats.

Following its quarterly meeting this week, the ASC emphasised the need for the Government’s new Producer Rebate initiative to be carefully and intelligently articulated in the legislation about to be drafted. ‘Consultation with the industry is vital to ensure the additional funds earmarked for increasing Australian production achieve their goal.’

‘Legislation should support the market, not distort it” said the Chair of the Australian Screen Council, Trish Lake. “The Australian Screen Council is right behind the Minister’s focus on expanding the capital base of our industry as the rationale for the Producer Rebate initiative announced in the Budget package,’ said Ms Lake.

The ASC applauds the inclusion of television in the package as a vital industry development. ‘Television is the bedrock upon which the film industry can flourish,’ said Lake. ‘The two are inextricably linked’.

‘This is also true of films of varying profiles and budgets,’ said Ms Lake. ‘A successful industry needs a range of work, from the modest to the spectacular. The ASC maintains that the industry is only sustainable if it is market driven, and the market has always demanded and produced great diversity. ‘Small budget films are vital for a healthy industry. This is amply demonstrated by films such as Kenny and The Castle.’ said Lake. ‘Without them, Australia will not have the skills base on which blockbusters are able to draw’.

Documentary is also a key part of our screen culture and it is imperative the Producer Rebate benefits documentary-makers in a viable, meaningful way. ‘We will be watching developments closely to ensure that the market realities of documentary are adequately reflected in the legislation,’ said Lake.

Market distortion is also at the heart of the ASC’s concerns about exploitation of the rebate by FTA Network and Pay TV operators. ‘There is evidence already that the networks intend to exploit the small and independent producers on whom the industry depends to reduce their legislative financial obligations to the Australian public’, said Lake. ‘The enabling
legislation for the Producer Rebate must be carefully drafted to ensure it increases, rather than decreases, competition and the capital base of the industry. The Producer Rebate must be just that – a producer rebate. It must not be allowed to become a de facto subsidy for broadcast licence fees.’

Lake concluded that the spirit and intent of the Producer Rebate initiative were impressive in their focus and scope. ‘The devil is always in the detail which is about to take shape’.

[release from AWG’

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