APRA AMCOS head criticises government decision to slash locally made content quotas

The quota for 55 per cent Australian content has been removed in some categories

APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston has criticised the Australian government’s decision to slash local content quotas as part of a $54million media coronavirus bailout package, highlighting the possible impact it could have on local screen composers.

The quota of 55 per cent Australian-made content in drama, kids shows and documentaries on both free-to-air and subscription TV has been removed for the remainder of the year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The content quotas remain in place for commercial radio.

Ormston fears the new rules leave Australian screen composers left in the lurch and criticised the move.

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“The move to water down content obligations will incentivise television broadcasters and subscription services to reduce the programming of new productions to the detriment of the local industry, including our screen composer members,” he said in a press release.

“There are scores of screen productions ready for release and in the final stages of post-production that can be scheduled over the remainder of the year.”

APRA AMCOS has backed the position of Screen Producers Australia and the Australian Guild of Screen Composers to institute a temporary arrangement that defers content obligations for broadcasters, providing them relief in the coming year. Per the press release, this would provide some flexibility without reducing the actual quantity of content commissioned.

“Screen composers are in a unique situation where a significant amount of income is derived from royalty payments made following broadcast of content,” said Australian Guild of Screen Composers president Antony Partos.

“Composers are already hit hard by the suspension of production with no likelihood of income for at least six months after production commences in many cases. There is now the prospect of a downturn in royalties due to a cessation of new Australian content being broadcast. This will have the potential of creating a double negative impact on our already struggling industry.”

Arts and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher defended the decision in a statement on the grounds of making local platforms more competitive.

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“Regulated free-to-air broadcasters are competing with unregulated digital platforms and video streaming services,” Fletcher said.

“It has been evident for some time – and the COVID-19 crisis has made it even more obvious – that this is not sustainable.”

APRA AMCOS are set to continue talks with the screen industry as to how to proceed.

“The screen industry, like the music industry, is going through a dramatic change with a global renaissance in production and consumption of content greater than ever before,” Ormston said.

“Relevant government investments or offsets in screen productions must include a specific incentive to use Australian composers.”

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