Australian documentary makers today launched a campaign to boost the ailing numbers of single docs commissioned by the ABC and SBS and for more investment from Screen Australia.

Indiedoco is campaigning for five key changes to the current distribution of Australia's public documentary subsidies, calling for:

– The ABC and SBS to follow the example of BBC2 by reinstating single documentary strands that 'will allow the very best filmmakers to find and tell stories that will illuminate, provoke and reveal modern Australia in all its staggering variety.'

– Screen Australia to remove the requirement for a broadcaster pre-sale for the National Documentary Program and to set up a new panel to select projects for NDP funding based on creative, cultural and artistic criteria.

– Screen Australia to reinstate a slate development program for documentary filmmakers similar to the General Development Investment Program that was offered by the Australian Film Commission.

– A substantial boost to Screen Australia's Signature Fund.

– Screen Australia to change the definition of 'bona fide release' for feature documentaries to accept the reality that feature documentaries can reach audiences in a myriad of different ways and to enable more feature documentaries to qualify for the 40% producer offset.

The campaign was launched at the Australian Directors Guild conference in Sydney and will culminate at the 2014 Australian International Documentary conference in March. These proposals were foreshadowed by factual filmmaker Jennifer Crone in a recent interview with IF.

Bob Connolly moderated a session at the ADG conference entitled Tell Us the Truth: The Demise of the One-Off Documentary with a panel comprising Crone, Tom Zubrycki, Trevor Graham and Genevieve Bailey.

Screen Australia’s senior manager of documentary Liz Stevens attended the session. In response to the Indiedoco campaign, she tells IF, "We look forward to having an ongoing dialogue with the documentary community over the next few months about the issues and concerns they’ve raised about one-off documentaries."

Crone tells IF the initiative was formalised when she talked with fellow panel members on Wednesday. The campaign is being run under the auspices of the ADG. The proposals got a near-unanimous vote on a show of hands at the end of the session.

She quoted a new study by Sharon Connolly which shows just 21% of TV documentaries funded by Screen Australia in 2012-2013 were single docs, versus 79% for series. Since 2008 when Screen Australia launched, the average number of hours of single docs funded by the agency has fallen by 22%.

On its Facebook page Indiedoco declares, "We are lucky to have public funding available for documentary in Australia. But public subsidies intended for documentaries with a high level of artistic and cultural merit are no longer being used for these purposes.

"Help us to save the great tradition of independent, authored documentary in Australia."

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