MEAA calls on new Minister to support public broadcasters
The MEAA will ask the new Communications and Arts Minister Mitch Fifield to guarantee the ABC and SBS's funding and independence and to restore arts funding.
The union will also try to persuade Fifield, who takes the arts portfolio from Attorney General George Brandis, to roll back the proposed liberalising of issuing visas for imported actors and technicians.
Meanwhile Free TV Australia has renewed its calls to scrap the commercial broadcasters’ licence fees and ASTRA identifies deregulation and job creation as top priorities for the subscription sector.
Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner welcomed the combination of the arts and communication portfolios, declaring, “It importantly marries up the critical policy levers for the screen industry under the one Minister."
MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said relations between Senator Brandis and the arts sector had become toxic in recent months and he hoped the Cabinet reshuffle will mean a fresh start.
“Arts organisations and individual artists are still reeling from Senator Brandis’ unilateral decision in May to take $105 million from the independent Australia Council and allocate it to a new grants body inside his own office,” Murphy said.
“This decision will have disastrous consequences for the arts for years to come, and we will be urging Senator Fifield to reconsider proceeding down this path.
Murphy said: “The ABC is one of Australia’s most trusted public institutions, but has been decimated by almost $500 million in cuts over the past two years, leading to the loss of almost 400 jobs and cut backs to services and programming.
“The attacks on the editorial and programming decisions of the ABC must stop and journalists and other employees there will expect nothing less from their Minister than to be the ABC’s staunchest defender and advocate.”
The MEAA claims that de-regulating the process of issuing entertainment visas, which would remove the need for the Minister to consult the union, could result in all lead and major supporting roles being filled by overseas performers and the importing of entire teams of production crew, despite zero evidence that producers are likely to hire far more imports.
The Arts department, which is reviewing the long-standing via regime, has been consulting with producers, guilds and unions and has invited supplementary submissions.
In a bulletin to members the MEAA said, “There is now widespread support in the Labor Party, the Greens and amongst key cross bench senators not to allow these changes to pass in the Senate.
“However, the fight to protect our industry from attacks on industrial, policy and cultural fronts is not over.”
Free TV CEO Julie Flynn said, “The industry has worked closely with the Prime Minister in his previous role as Minister for Communications on making changes to ensure that the industry is able to innovate and compete in today's media environment.
"Getting rid of obsolete licence fees and outdated rules have been our key focus and we are sure that work will continue with Senator Fifield."
ASTRA CEO Andrew Maiden said, “ASTRA is delighted at the appointment of Senator Fifield as Minister and looks forward to working with him to further deregulate the broadcasting sector to create new jobs for Australians.”
In September ASTRA revealed data showing more than 8300 Australians worked in the subscription television sector, but warned that further job creation could only be assured if the Government reduces regulations that stifle growth.
“The need to deregulate is becoming urgent with the growth of unregulated offshore television streaming services, which make little investment in local television production and create few if any jobs for Australians,” Maiden said.
“ASTRA is confident that the Federal Government and Opposition understand this challenge and will respond with policies that support job creation in the months leading up the next election.”