ABC, SBS documentary policies under fire
The public broadcasters have been accused of neglecting single documentaries, resulting in a lack of diversity in stories.
And the ABC’s so-called “lock out” policy which deters some filmmakers from applying for Screen Australia funding was deemed unfair.
“There are no permanent slots for Australian documentary programs, either series or one-offs, on either of our public broadcasters,” writer/producer/director Trevor Graham told a seminar at the Australia Directors Guild conference on Thursday.
“The ABC takes the view that Screen Australia investment funds are for ABC Factual prime time, not for programs commissioned by ABC Arts or by Religion and Ethics,” said Graham, who co-founded Yarra Bank Films in 1983.
“The ABC has instituted what many producers call the Lock Out. Producers making projects for TV Arts and Religion and Ethics are told they will only be given a presale on the condition they do not approach Screen Australia for funding, thus impoverishing the producer and their Arts/Religion programs to extremely poor budgets.”
Graham blasted the ABC’s preference for factual entertainment programs presented by ABC personalities, which he said results in a lack of diversity of stories and styles of program.
The seminar marked the launch of the Indiedoco campaign, which calls on the ABC and SBS to reinstate single documentary strands and asks Screen Australia to significantly increase the budget for its Signature Fund and to remove the requirement for a broadcaster pre-sale for the National Documentary Program. The campaign also asks Screen Australia to lobby the federal government to make feature docs eligible for the 40% producer offset without having a cinema release.
Graham quoted from a new study, Strewth! –Everything you always wanted to know about the one-off documentary but were too afraid to ask, written by filmmaker Sharon Connolly and commissioned by Bob Connolly and David Court of the business studies centre at AFTRS.
The research shows the average annual hours of factual/documentary since 2007/08 increased by 34% on the previous five years to 311 hours, but of that, 76% was docu series hours and just 24% single docs.
The number of single docs accessing the 20% TV producer offset fell from 40 in 2008/09 to 16 in 2011/12.
Only 10 feature docs for cinema exhibition accessed the 40% offset in the five years to 2012.