In response to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the independent production sector, the ABC has launched a $5 million development fund.

Called the Fresh Start Fund, it will be focused on developing original new content for broadcast channels and iview, spanning multiple genres, including drama, comedy, children’s, factual, music and the arts.

ABC director of entertainment and specialist Michael Carrington said: “As Australia’s biggest backer of local content, the ABC will provide whatever help possible within our means to shore up the viability of independent producers, who are struggling during this incredibly disruptive time.

“The Fresh Start Fund will ramp up the development of original and outstanding Australian content to keep our production sector afloat during the COVID-19 restrictions. In times like this we all need to pull together and the ABC remains open for business in supporting Australian talent and stories.”

The impact of COVID-19 on the broadcaster’s normal operations has allowed it to reprioritise expenditure for the fund.

Further, the broadcaster states it is acquiring additional Australian content for broadcast on ABC TV and iview during this period.

In terms of productions that have been delayed or suspended, the ABC says it is working to find “supportive solutions”, including being flexible around delivery and varying cash flows as appropriate on a title-by-title basis.

Screen Producers Australia has praised the establishment of the fund, noting it will provide a “much-needed lifeline” to an industry crippled by production shutdowns and by falling between the cracks of the JobKeeper program.

“The Fresh Start Fund will see long lasting benefits for screen sector workers – many of whom are currently unemployed – allowing them to shift focus to supercharging development of new Australian content across multiple genres. This will ensure there is a ready supply of, and viable market for, local stories as soon as physical production can safely resume,” said CEO Matthew Deaner.”

“It is heartening to see our public broadcaster recognise the essential role played by independent producers in helping to deliver Australian stories and hope that we see similar levels of support from other parts of the commissioning landscape who last week benefited from various support measures including suspension of local content obligations in a move from government that has been subject to widespread disappointment from many in the industry.”

ABC FRESH START FUND STREAMS

  1. Enhanced Development & Production Fund

Supports Australian production companies that have worked with the ABC or gained some industry recognition, across two areas:

  1. Existing productions: Supercharging development assistance to kickstart productions impacted by COVID-19 after the lifting of restrictions.
  2. New concepts: Supporting new stories in any genre about Australian culture and communities, particularly in new formats.

 

  1. Innovation Fund

Supports individual Australian creatives who may not have worked with the ABC previously. The Innovation Fund backs Australian talent with bold and innovative content ideas across multiple genres aimed at audiences under 55.

 

  1. Arts Digital Fund

Supports Australian creatives and production companies with innovative ideas for new arts content, particularly documentary storytelling. Short-form is preferred.

 

  1. Children’s Content Fund

Supports excellence in children’s content across two areas:

  1. Scripted/Factual: Supporting production companies with current animation or live-action development or productions.
  2. Music: Commissioning new pieces of children’s music from talented and prolific Australian musicians for ABC Kids listen.

 

  1. Australian Music

Support for independent Australian artists and musicians across all ABC music networks, including:

  1. New music: Commissioning new works for ABC Classic and ABC Jazz.
  2. Music scholarships: Supporting diverse emerging artists across multiple genres and themes, driven by triple j and triple j Unearthed.

Funding applications open from 4 May 4 to June 12. More info here.