The Nine Network screened just two first-release Australian dramas – Seachange and Bad Mothers – last year and had to rely on New Zealand imports to fulfill the local drama quota.
Kiwi series The Brokenwood Mysteries, Straight Forward, Westside, The Bad Seed and Dear Murderer and feature film The Changeover aired on 9GEM, accounting for 50 per cent of the network’s local drama obligations.
Conversely, NZ dramas accounted for only 5 per cent of Network 10’s local drama hours and and 10 per cent of the Seven Network’s, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s 2019 Compliance with Australian Content Standard and Children’s Television Standard report issued last week.
The report prompted Screen Producers Australia to renew its attack on Australian broadcasters’ continued reliance on “cheap, second-run New Zealand programs” to acquit their local Australian content obligations.
SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said: “SPA has been calling on the government to close the NZ content loophole for several years. The ACMA’s latest results merely confirm the loophole’s damaging impact and tell a story of forgone Australian jobs and investment and missed opportunities for audiences to experience our nation’s own rich and distinctive stories.
“A lack of foresight when negotiating a trade deal with New Zealand in the 1980s is now having devastating consequences for local small businesses 40 years later and makes a mockery of the content standards by promoting another country’s cultural identity over our own.”
SPA has proposed two options to reduce the influx of Kiwi drama programs. The first is to redefine the term “first release” to encompass the worldwide premiere, not just its initial screening in the licence area.
The second is to redefine Australian program based on its content rather than its provenance, which would exclude most, if not all, New Zealand productions.
Seven screened Kiwi series Educators, Mean Mums and Jonah, telemovies Ablaze and Runaway Millionaires and feature films Basement and Three Wise Cousins, mostly on 7TWO or 7MATE.
Network 10’s sole imports from across the Tasman were the series Funny Girls and Funny Girls: The Suffragette Special, which aired on 10 Peach.
The report showed the broadcasters easily exceeded the mandate to run 20 hours of first release Australian documentary and just met the requirements to screen 130 hours of new Australian children’s programs and 130 hours of local preschool programs.
And all beat the children’s drama sub-quota of 25 hours, with Seven showing 33.5 hours, Nine 32.5 hours and 10 32 hours.
The local spending rules this year are a moot point, of course, after the Federal Government decided to suspend the quotas until the end of this year, arguing the production shut down meant it would be impossible for the networks to fulfil them.
Deaner has slammed the measure as a “very blunt tool,” particularly given that animation and documentary programming could still have been commissioned, keeping people in jobs during the wider shut down.