Parliamentary film and TV inquiry’s report will focus on jobs and growth

Luke Howarth.

The House of Representatives’ inquiry into the growth and sustainability of the film and TV industry will recommend steps to create jobs and help grow the industry, according to its chair Luke Howarth.

The chair of the Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts, Howarth tells IF he is confident there will be bipartisan agreement among the committee’s members on how to make the industry more sustainable.

“We would like to see the industry avoid the boom-and-bust cycle,” said the Liberal member for Petrie. “We want to see the creation of more jobs and to make the industry stronger.”

Howarth said the aim is to deliver the report to parliament in eight weeks. Without wishing to pre-empt the findings, which will be formulated after the parliamentary recess, he expects the report will address the Location Offset, children’s TV quotas and imposing local content obligations on Netflix and other streaming services.

However the committee seems less likely to have a uniform view on calls to remove the need to consult the MEAA on the approval of visas for foreign artists and technicians.

Howarth said the committee heard strong evidence in support of raising the Location Offset from 16.5 per cent to 30 per cent, rather than rely on ad hoc government grants to attract offshore production.

“That’s something we agree on. The question is: How do we fund that?” he said, given the government’s pledge to reduce the systemic budget deficit.

As for a quota on Netflix and other SVOD players, he said, “That is something we will discuss.”

Howarth indicated he personally favours proposals by Screen Producers Australia, actor Roy Billing and others to remove the MEAA from the process of granting visas but acknowledged, “It may be hard to get the committee to agree on that.”

He said he supports the Make it Australian campaign, which held rallies around the country on Monday.

The inquiry had 515 submissions. Most of the TV-related submissions focussed on the children’s quotas, which the commercial free-to-air networks want to scrap.

That issue will be more fully addressed in the Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review  being conducted by the Department of Communications, Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Howarth said his report will have “something to say” on the kids quotas.

The MP has some experience in the screen industry, albeit years ago.  In the early 2000s he worked for Sony Australia’s production and broadcast division, selling equipment to production houses and networks.

During the inquiry he’s become more familiar with Oz films, having watched Hacksaw Ridge, Dance Academy: The Movie and My Pet Dinosaur, plus the Sydney-shot Alien: Covenant.

Speaking on behalf of all committee members, he said, “We have a new appreciation of the value of Australian film and TV content.”