By Brendan Swift

A delegation of Australian producers yesterday called on the Federal Government to honour its election pledge to increase the ABC’s level of drama funding.

The team, led by the Screen Producers Association of Australia, made a presentation to the government’s arts committee yesterday afternoon. It wants funding to allow the ABC to produce 90 hours of local drama a year compared to 30 hours currently.

“We’re also here to give the message that we’re an industry that is not quarantined from the rest of the economy: there are signs of a significant downturn in TVC production,” SPAA executive director, Geoff Brown, said.

“We’re battling to get a major offshore production in at the moment and for the industry to function properly it needs critical mass. Unless we get some proper funding in the first year it’s not going to do much at all for the ABC, TV or the audience.”

The ABC’s current triennial funding allocation from the government expires in June. It received $846.7 million in 2007-08 from the government and a further $224.2 million from other sources, including ABC Commercial, according to its annual report.

The delegation of producers also included Jigsaw Entertainment chief executive Nick Murray, McLeod’s Daughters producer Posie Graeme-Evans and Underbelly executive producer Bob Campbell.

“The government’s election promise was to fund the ABC so that it was able to produce the same level of local drama each year as required of the commercial broadcasters (ie 90 hours),” Mr Campbell said. “Now is the time to fulfil that commitment.”

A recent analysis by SPAA estimated that increasing ABC drama production to 90 hours a year from its current level of 30 hours would create around 1000 full time TV jobs and 2500 jobs across the economy.

SPAA will today meet with the minister for innovation, Senator Kim Carr, where it will discuss the application of research and development allowances to the post, digital and visual (PDV) sector.

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