Local TV content quota suspension could shutter small screen businesses, ombudsman says

The government has removed local content quotas for the remainder of 2020

The suspension of local TV content quotas could shutter “thousands” of small screen businesses in Australia, according to Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell.

Back in March, the federal government removed the 55 per cent Australian-made content quota on drama, kids shows and documentaries on both free-to-air and subscription TV for the remainder of the year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release issued today (August 4), Carnell said the industry needed “a clear commitment” that the quota suspension would end next year.

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“We know that many of these small production companies are ready to return to work, but there are limited projects in the pipeline due to the uncertainty over how long this quota suspension will remain in place,” she said.

“It’s very difficult to attract investment under these circumstances, which could ultimately drive many of these small businesses to the brink.”

In April, Federal Arts and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher defended the decision on the grounds of making local platforms more competitive.

“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.”

Carnell also echoed criticism from industry figures over the federal government’s recent decision to dispense a $400 million package to stimulate overseas productions to be filmed in Australia over the next three years.

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Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia, said the funding would target Hollywood productions filming in Australia, but the budget would only accommodate 20 per cent of the local industry.

“It’s great to have Thor and Pirates of the Caribbean and those productions shooting here, it’s wonderful, but they don’t sell Australia.”

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