More than 200 screen industry figures have written an open letter to federal MPs warning that Australian story telling is at risk of being drowned out by overseas content.

The latest initiative from the Make It Australian campaign is a direct response to fears the Turnbull government plans to slash the local content quotas for TV drama and children’s television, as advocated by the commercial free-to-air broadcasters.

The letter signed by 15 Oscar winners and dozens of other prominent actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians urges politicians to commit to growing the screen industry and ensuring it can compete internationally.

“Our ability to keep telling Australian stories on screen is at risk, our voices in danger of being drowned out by a deluge of overseas content,” they write.

“And if our nation’s stories aren’t told, they die. And when they die, future generations won’t know who we are and what makes us us.”

The letter calls on MPs to help the screen industry in three ways:

  • To evolve Australian content rules so they cover new media like Netflix, Amazon, Telstra TV, telcos and ISPs;
  • To introduce competitive tax incentives so Australia can compete globally for film and TV productions;
  • To ensure public broadcasters and screen agencies are well-funded so they can continue commissioning ground-breaking new content.

According to Screen Producers Australia, investment in Australian drama by commercial broadcasters has fallen by 30 per cent in the past three years. If the networks’ reduced quota model had been in place in 2016 it would have meant a loss to the industry in that year of 40 per cent of drama hours, $125 million in budgets and 3,500 jobs. Similarly, abolishing children’s quotas would mean no Australian children’s content on commercial television.

Among the signatories are Cate Blanchett, Sam Neill, Rose Byrne, Joel Edgerton, Patrick Brammall, Deborah Mailman and Richard Roxburgh, directors Nadia Tass, Kate Dennis, Daina Reid, Peter Weir, Philip Noyce and Gillian Armstrong, screenwriters David Williamson, Andrew Knight and Jan Sardi, producers Penny Chapman, John Edwards, Tony Ayres, Ian Collie, Jason Burrows and Michael Tear, costume designer Lizzy Gardiner, editor Alexandre de Franceschi, production designer Catherine Martin and cinematographer Mandy Walker.

The Make It Australian campaign spearheaded by the Australian Directors’ Guild, the Australian Writers’ Guild, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and SPA is also calling for harmonising the Producer Offsets at 40 per cent and increasing the Location Offset from 16.5 per cent to 30 per cent.

According to a new report from Olsberg SPI commissioned by the Australian Screen Association, those measures would lift the valued added back into the economy to $1.9 billion in 2021-22 – an increase of 61.2 per cent from 2016-17 – and wages and jobs in the sector would rise by more than 65 per cent.

“Such a model would also likely generate significant private investment into the sector, as new facilities are built to take advantage of the opportunities on offer, further expanding the productive capacity of the industry. We estimate the value of this impact on physical studio space alone at $96 million by 2021-22,” the report said.

Read the full letter here.

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