By Brendan Swift

The ABC will receive an extra $150 million in government funding over three years to boost its Australian content.

The funding, announced in last night’s federal budget, will allow the ABC to establish a new digital children’s channel and bring its local drama content levels in line with commercial broadcasters. It is expected to be able to boost its local content to 90 hours a year compared to 20 hours currently.

SBS will also receive an additional $20 million over three years, which will allow it to increase its level of local content by an additional 50 hours a year from 2011-12.

The new funding reverses several years of declines under the previous Coalition government and follows extensive lobbying by the Screen Producers Association of Australia.

Meanwhile, the ABC will also have an extra $15.3 million over three years to roll out a regional broadband hub strategy.

“Funding will be used to identify and employ local producers to work on cross-media stories and to provide training and equipment for the creation of user-generated content,” the budget papers said.

The budget also showed that national screen agency Screen Australia’s average staffing levels are expected to fall to 135 next year from 169 in 2008-09. Government funding will be reduced to $102.1 million from $112.6 million as the producer tax offset is expected to provide increased support to the industry.

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