Yet another screen industry inquiry

The Make It Australian campaign in Canberra (Photo via: AWG twitter).

The Australian screen industry can brace itself for yet another Canberra-led inquiry, this time from the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young today announced the committee will conduct an inquiry into the Economic and Cultural Value of Australian Content on Broadcast, Radio and Streaming Services.

Its report will be delivered by May 9 2018, well after the current Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review and the House of Reps inquiry into the growth and sustainability of Australian film and television.

“Big commercial broadcasters complain that creating Australian programming doesn’t suit their business model but what they seem to ignore is the immense value Australian content has on our society and how we can project Australia to the rest of the world,” Hanson-Young said.

“The way we watch television has changed with online and on-demand services like Netflix and Stan. We need local content requirements for these service too, just like is being done in other countries around the world.

”This inquiry will focus on the value that Australian television and music contributes to our society, through economic benefits, export potential and community building.”

She announced the inquiry as industry luminaries including Bryan Brown, Sigrid Thornton, Sean Keenan, Matt Day, Gillian Armstrong, Peter Duncan, John Seale, Penny Chapman and Michael Tear gathered in Canberra to continue lobbying the government in the Make It Australian campaign.

The Australian Directors’ Guild, Australian Writers’ Guild, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Screen Producers Australia and members of the Australian Screen Industry Group launched the campaign last month. They are fighting for:

  • Reform of local content rules to include the burgeoning digital platforms, including streaming services;
  • The restoration of funding to public broadcasters and Screen Australia which commission a significant proportion of local comedy and drama; and
  • The modernisation of production incentives to make them globally competitive at all levels.

The groups are determined to resist any attempts by the commercial free-to-air networks to reduce drama production after they told the Content Review they want to abandon the children’s programming quotas.

Hanson-Young supports their stance, stating: “If the big commercial broadcasters have their way, local content requirements for children’s television will be abolished and Australian-made drama will be cut. Australian families deserve to have their stories told and their communities reflected back to them on screen; this is especially vital for children making sense of the world around them.

The House Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts is expected to deliver its report next month.

The Content Review by the Department of Communications and the Arts, Screen Australia and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is due to report by the end of the year.

Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner said, “As an industry we welcome the attention our issues are being given by the federal parliament. This year we have had a House inquiry, a Content Review and now a Senate inquiry.

“The more light we can shine on our industry through these complementary processes and demonstrate its importance and value to Australians, the better. I look forward to engaging constructively with the Senate Committee.”

The committee will consider the submissions made to the Content Review and the House of Reps inquiry.  Among its terms of reference are the current state and operation of the market for the Australian television and music industries including:

  • Competition issues relating to the relative market power of producers and broadcasters for traditional, streaming and catch up viewing;
  • The contribution the Australian television and music industries make to the economy;
  • The value and importance of local content requirements for television, radio and streaming services in Australia;
  • Australian children’s television and children’s content.