Australian screen producers have called on the ABC to quarantine expenditure on television drama and children’s television programming, regardless of any funding cuts to the ABC in the upcoming May Federal Budget.
Matthew Deaner, Executive Director of Screen Producers Australia, has written to ABC Managing Director Mark Scott outlining the industry’s concerns.
“Australian production companies are understandably concerned that a cut in overall ABC funding in the Federal Budget will lead to a reduction in expenditure on locally produced ABC television programming. It is our view that any efficiency review should be focused on operational structures and processes and we are seeking an assurance from the ABC that it is committed to maintaining and improving funding levels for local content, particularly drama and children's television,” Mr Deaner said.
"ABC audiences love their Australian drama and the nation's parents rely on the ABC to provide quality programming for their kids. There has been a stunning resurgence in quality ABC drama over recent years with programs such as Rake, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and The Slap as well as children’s content such as Dance Academy and Nowhere Boys garnering both huge local audiences and succeeding on the international stage and we want that standard to be maintained.”
Mr Deaner said that Mark Scott’s recent assertion at Senate Estimates that no part of the ABC would be quarantined from funding cuts was at odds with commitments made by Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to Screen Producers Australia that any efficiency review at the ABC was about operational structures and process and not about production, programming or editorial costs.
Furthermore, the ABC’s recent written response to questions on notice from Senate Estimates has highlighted the sector’s concerns. They reveal that ahead of the outcome of any budget review, cuts have already been made by the ABC to Drama and Comedy Content of $1.62 million and Children’s Content of $4.135 million.
“In light of these existing reductions and in the absence of any firm commitments from the ABC, the independent production sector is being left to rely on misinformation in the media or rumours and leaks that undermine confidence in the sector and undermines the capacity for Australian production businesses to adequately plan for the future,” Mr Deaner said.
Mr Deaner said that the Australian screen production industry contributed $3 billion annually to the Australian economy and employed more than 16,000 people.
“This is a sector that contributes substantially to both the cultural and economic life of our nation,” Mr Deaner said.
“Screen production companies are by nature entrepreneurial, creative technology businesses which raise investments from domestic and international sources, employ thousands of Australians and in turn develop a work force with globally transferable skills and then sell content to domestic and international markets and territories that entertain a global audience. Their output binding our communities together in powerful story telling while every dollar invested provides positive returns to Australia’s GDP.”
“We have enjoyed a strong collaborative relationship to date with the ABC ensuring that Australians experience high quality television programming on their national broadcaster,” Mr Deaner said.
“Screen Producers Australia is calling on the ABC to end the uncertainty in our sector and to reassure the production industry and Australian audiences that budgets for production – and in particular drama and children’s program – will not be touched.”