Glut of imports
Networks under fire over cash handout
HERE is nothing like a $250 million government handout to bring the critics out of the woodwork. Just ask the freeto-air TV networks — Seven, Nine and Ten — which are under pressure to increase their level of Australian content after the Government’s recent $250 million licence rebate.
The Rudd Government justified the rebate by saying it had grave concerns’’ the networks would not meet their local-content quotas, let alone increase them.
The networks now have a 55 per cent local-content quota between 6am and midnight as part of their TV licence conditions.
Critics of the rebate, however, have pounced on the networks’ claimed lack of commitment to local content.
The local quotas don’t apply to the new TV free-to-air digital channels — GO!, 7TWO and OneHD.
On top of that, New Zealand programs have been
dumped’’ on Australian TV as the three commercial networks exploit a sneaky way around local-content rules.
Under the Closer Economic Relations agreement between Australia and New Zealand, Kiwi-made programs such as
and count under Australiancontent quota requirements.
Screen Producers Association of Australia executive director Geoff Brown says it’s one of several content issues that need addressing urgently.
While we understand there was a High Court decision that said . . . you cannot discriminate under the CER between Australian and New Zealand programs — it was never envisaged we would see, in effect, a dumping of New Zealand programs on the Australian market,’’ Brown says.
The local-content issue has become more pressing since the launch of the networks’ digital multi-channels.
Industry estimates for the first week of 2010 suggest that Nine’s digital channel GO! had only 3.2 per cent local content; Seven Network’s 7TWO had 15.1 per cent; and Network Ten’s One HD had 14.3 per cent.
The Government has got to move swiftly to put in place a content regime for multichannels,’’ Brown says.
GO! program director Les Sampson admits the channel has an imbalance.
We have a lot of American and UK content on the channel. It’s important to look at local content but it comes down to cost,’’ Sampson says.
Those costs can be substantial. An hour of Aust- ralian drama will cost about $500,000. Reality shows are cheaper but come with multimillion-dollar format rights.
Most recent Australian Communications and Media Authority data for 2008, released in July last year, put Seven’s local-content quota at 64 per cent, Nine at 61 per cent and Ten at 56.4 per cent.
There is no guarantee that any of the $250 million rebate will go towards creating Australian content.
Foxtel CEO Kim Williams is livid at the Government’s decision. Our competitors have been gifted a $250 million headstart,’’ Williams has said in a newspaper column.
The broadcasting licences aren’t licences to compete, they’re licences to print money.’’
Media analyst Steve Allen believes, however, that the current rage against the TV networks is a lot of mischief led by vocal minorities’’.
It has been one of the nastiest times for TV and I’m sure Senator (Stephen) Conroy doesn’t want to slow the slate of Australian programs already in development by the networks,’’ Allen says.
This notion has become popular that these (Australian TV executives) are lazy boffins who have an easy ride, but I don’t agree.’’