Beyond International loses Producer Offset appeal

02 February, 2011 by Brendan Swift

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal has upheld Screen Australia’s decision to reject a Producer Offset application by one of Australia’s largest TV companies.

The national screen agency initially rejected Beyond International’s offset application for its fifth series of documentary Taboo in October 2009 on the grounds that it did not meet the significant Australian content (SAC) test and was not a new creative concept.


Screen Australia has rejected only a handful of applications since the legislation was introduced in 2007, although none that have received provisional certification for the 20 per cent TV tax rebate.

The rejection prompted Beyond to appeal the decision – which cost it an expected rebate of $873,000 – in February 2010.

However, the AAT confirmed Screen Australia’s initial finding that the series was not “significantly Australian” despite being produced by a local company, which spent approximately 86 per cent of its production budget in Australia employing largely Australian personnel.

Taboo explores the traditions, rituals and social mores – sometimes in a shocking and explicit manner – of different cultures around the world. Five of the 45 stories shown in series five were set in Australia.

However, the AAT noted that National Geographic, which produced and developed the first three series and provided the bulk of the ongoing production budget, retained ultimate creative control, including replacing the Australian narration with a US voiceover.

“While series four and five were produced largely by Australian personnel, and we note that the behind the scenes work on series four and five – the research, writing, production, filming, editing etc – was undertaken principally by Australians, we did not detect anything characteristically Australian about these series and we doubt that the ordinary person viewing series 4 and 5 would have noticed anything different from series one,” the AAT said.

Screen Australia has taken a more liberal interpretation of the SAC test than its predecessor, the Film Finance Corporation, allowing a broader array of Australian content to be produced.

For example, feature film Knowing was initially rejected for the higher 40 per cent Producer Offset rebate by the FFC but later accepted by Screen Australia in 2009.

Nonetheless, the tribunal noted that other decisions by Screen Australia were irrelevant under the legislation.

The AAT also backed Screen Australia’s decision that the fifth series of Taboo did not represent a new creative concept compared to earlier series.

“There were more similarities than differences, especially bearing in mind that the concept for series four and five was one which National Geographic dictated should be a continuation of that for series one to three,” it said.

The full Administrative Appeals Tribunal can be found here.