The ACTF-supported ‘Little J & Big Cuz.’

The Australian Children’s Television Foundation plans to increase spending on development, invest higher amounts in commissioned productions and offer more distribution guarantees thanks to an additional $20 million in government funding.

In a further encouraging sign for producers, ACTF CEO Jenny Buckland says she is talking to a wide range of free-to-air broadcasters and streaming platforms that have expressed interest in kids’ content despite the abolition of the sub-quotas.

As a partial trade-off for scrapping the quotas, the federal budget allocated an extra $20 million to the ACTF and $30 million to Screen Australia over two years, starting on July 1 2021.

“It’s going to be a huge extension of our existing programs – we’ll be able to offer more of everything – and we’re aiming to be as nimble and flexible as possible,” Buckland tells IF.

“With the Offset for TV increasing to 30 per cent and Screen Australia continuing to invest strongly in kids content with its increased funding, the extra  funding to the ACTF recognises how difficult it can be to finance kids content, how high the production standards have to be and how important this content is to the audience. It’s about supporting content that will reach and appeal to children, here and all over the world.

“It’s going to have to be content that broadcasters and subscription/SVODs want, in an environment where they’re not compelled to acquire children’s content. That’s a competitive place to be, and it’s a mind shift for some people, but it’s being embraced by many others.

”We’ve been speaking to lots of producers and creators over the last few weeks who are excited by the possibilities and we’re also talking to broadcasters and SVOD platforms, where there is genuine interest in what’s coming along. All up, I’m really positive.”

While she declined to name the broadcasters and streamers, she said: “You can assume we’re talking to everyone.”

That is a rather more optimistic outlook than a letter sent last week to Communications Minister Paul Fletcher and MPs from a coalition of leading children’s content producers which warned the media reforms will force many production businesses to close, resulting in thousands of job losses.

As the new money does not kick in until the next financial year, the ACTF is yet to decide how it will be allocated between development, production investment and distribution guarantees. But the organisation will be well resourced to invest far more in development than the $347,679 committed in 2019/2020.

The ACTF-supported ‘Little Lunch.’

“We’ve supported development on a lot of terrific concepts over the last 12 months. Now that we have a degree of certainty for the next couple of years and our capacity is going to be so much greater, we’ll be trying to get development funding out to more shows than usual this year, with a view to being able to forward commit bigger amounts into shows that are commissioned for going into production next year,” she says. 

Last financial year the ACTF board approved $2.2 million for distribution advances/equity investment,  higher than the usual amounts which range from $700,000 – $1.5 million per year.

“Over recent years we’ve really felt squeezed about how many distribution advances we can offer – it’s been one or at most two major projects a year and we’ve had to be very careful about what we commit to and at what stage we commit because the resources have been so limited,” she says.

“Now we’ll be able to take on significantly more projects for distribution. We’ll also be able to continue to provide gap finance to projects where we don’t have distribution and remain flexible in how we might do that.   

“We’ll consider equity investment too, but we won’t be replacing Screen Australia’s equity investment. It’s really important that producers continue to have access to Screen Australia investment in children’s shows.”

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