Government moves step closer to documentary definition

05 July, 2012 by Brendan Swift

The Federal Government plans to introduce legislation which will define the type of documentaries eligible for the Producer Offset rebate.

Arts Minister Simon Crean said the absence of a legislative definition and recent court decisions have created financial uncertainty for producers.


“Inserting a definition of the term ‘documentary’ will give producers greater confidence about the eligibility of their production and will support the success of the Producer Offset as a funding mechanism,” he said in a statement. “It will also provide clear guidance for the program’s administrator, Screen Australia, and the government in the operation of the Offset.”

The government first announced plans to define the limits of a documentary in the 2012-13 Federal Budget following Screen Australia’s failed court battle to reject Essential Media and Entertainment’s Offset application for TV series Lush House.

Screen Australia argued that the ten-episode cleaning series was an infotainment program rather than a documentary although Essential argued that a similar series, Is Your House Killing You?, did receive the tax break. At stake was the Producer Offset's 20 per cent rebate on a documentary's qualifying expenditure. Both the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court sided with Essential.

An exposure draft outlining the new legislative amendment is now set to be released for discussion by Treasury.

However, the government said a documentary that qualifies for the Producer Offset would be a creative interpretation of actuality and does not include an infotainment or lifestyle program, or a magazine program.

Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said the definition will be consistent with the Australian Content Standard made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

“The new definition will be developed to align with relevant broadcasting legislation and long-standing industry practice,” he said in a statement.

The amendment will apply to productions commencing principal photography on or after July 1, 2012.

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