Australia’s largest production houses and a number of independent producers have asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison for urgent funding to help the industry get back on its feet.
Among their proposals are an immediate cash injection of $200 million to the sector, administered by Screen Australia, to support a back-to-work plan, and doubling the Producer Offset for TV productions to 40 per cent for 12 months, starting from July 1.
Echoing widespread industry sentiment, they call for content quotas on all broadcasters, pay TV channels and SVOD services to preserve the volume of local content and increasing and harmonizing the rates of all Offsets.
This recovery plan is detailed in a letter to Morrison signed by the CEOs or MDs of Endemol Shine Australia, Easy Tiger, Fremantle, Goalpost Pictures, ITV Studios Australia, Matchbox Pictures and Warner Bros. Television Australia.
The other signatories are Screen Producers Australia president Michael Tear and CEO Matt Deaner, Essential Media’s Brendan Dahill, Flying Bark Productions’ Barbara Stephen, Hoodlum Entertainment’s Nathan Mayfield and Tracey Vieira and Jungle Entertainment’s Jason Burrows.
The letter points out the group represents businesses behind such Australian shows as Neighbours, Harrow, MasterChef, The Chase, Doctor Doctor, The Masked Singer, No Activity, Blinky Bill and The Invisible Man.
All have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, they said, “with production activity stopped and significant investment uninsurable and now at risk.”
Morrison and Communications Minister Paul Fletcher have indicated the government is weighing up a support package for the broader arts sector but gave no specifics.
The group proposed the $200 million would help stalled Australian drama, documentary and entertainment productions directly impacted by the pandemic, support the development of Australian projects and talent, and a coordinated international and interstate border access plan.
It also called for additional financial incentives to trigger new Australian drama, documentary and entertainment productions that are recovery-ready.
Producers began meeting informally, IF understands, to come up with a new assistance package after SPA’s pitch to the government for a four-year $1 billion screen content fund did not appear to gain traction in Canberra.
There was some debate within the group over whether the letter should specifically call for the Producer Offset to be extended to reality shows and light entertainment. That resulted in the compromise of a more general reference to financial assistance for entertainment shows.
The multinational production companies are expected to press for the broadening of the Offset in their responses to the Screen Australia/ACMA options paper commissioned by the government.
The Communications Department yesterday advised the deadline for submissions to that inquiry has been extended from 5 pm today until July 3 “in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of preparing submissions in the current environment.”