Campaign launched against Senator Conroy’s proposed changes to sub quota content
General Manager of the Australian Directors Guild, Kingston Anderson, held a last-minute conference at the Australian International Documentary Conference on Wednesday evening, voicing the launch of a postcard campaign against Senator Stephen Conroy’s proposed changes to local Australian sub quota content on television.
The campaign, entitled ‘Australian Screens, Australian Stories’, was officially launched this morning and is supported by eight guilds – the ADG, Screen Producers Association Australia, Australian Writers Guild, Media Entertainment Arts Alliance, Australian Cinematography’s Society, Australian Production Design Guild, Australian Screen Sound Guild and the Australian Editors Guild.
The campaign is accompanied by a cartoon artwork created by Walkley winning cartoonist First Dog on the Moon, and features the ghost of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo interviewing Senator Conroy on television about the proposed changes.
Campaign organisers are encouraging supporters to access a copy of the cartoon postcard and sign and mail it to their local government authority.
At the AIDC, Anderson expressed his dismay at what he termed a “terrifying” sequence of events which could see commercial networks able to screen half the Australian local content on their digital channels in three years time than what they are currently showing now.
Anderson estimates the current percentage of Australian content shown on commercial digital channels to be somewhere in between ten and 15 per cent.
Currently the government are preparing the legislation, which was announced by Senator Conroy in November last year, for presentation to the March parliamentary sittings.
The legislation proposes that the local content requirement for each commercial multi-channel should increase from 730 hours in 2013 to 1095 hours in 2014 and 1460 in 2015.
It also includes an incentive for first-release drama, by allowing an hour of first-release drama or premiere on a digital multi-channel to count for two hours under the Transmission Hours Requirement for Multi Channels.
As Anderson put it at the AIDC, “It’s a two for one deal.”
Finally, the legislation also proposes to introduce a greater flexibility into the current arrangements for sub quotas.
“You might think, well at least they’re doing some sort of sub quota… unfortunately it doesn’t work like that,” said Anderson.
“Because when you do the numbers, the minimum hour requirement will allow the commercial networks to show less Australian content on their digital channels than they are now.
“And, by three years, it will still be half of what they’re showing now. So effectively, what the legislation does is give them a huge reprieve… they don’t have to show more Australian content. They have to show less Australian content.”
What Anderson finds particularly worrying is the wording of the legislation, which fails to provide a definiton of what kind of Australian content would qualify.
“But it’s even worse than that, because the wording of (the legislation), basically, is really loose. Because what we’re interested in are three areas – drama, documentary, and children’s programs…. But they didn’t actually define that. So the minimum hour requirement can be met by screening news, sport, reality TV, repeats of old Australian drama, even New Zealand programming, second hand NZ programming, because it qualifies as Australian content.
“They have no obligation to show any new content at all.”
In his conference session, Anderson claimed efforts by the guilds to speak with Senator Conroy had been fruitless.
To view the cartoon postcard or to find out more about the campaign, visit http://www.communityrun.org/p/australianstories