Producers, actors express alarm at Audit Commission proposals
The National Commission of Audit’s proposals to halve Screen Australia’s funding and transfer the Australian Film, Television and Radio School to a university or vocational education institution predictably are causing angst in the screen industry.
Screen Australia would be merged with the Australia Council, Creative Partnerships Australia and Bundanoon Trust to reduce administrative costs, the Commission proposes.
And Scroz’s reduced funding would be focussed on Australian content, “including with an historical perspective, which may not otherwise be funded.”
Screen Producers Australia executive director Matt Deaner tells IF, “'I am alarmed at the proposal of such drastic measures which would upset what is a critical balance of support in the industry.
“'These proposals are clinical and driven by a single motive but the effect would undermine public and industry expectations as well as damage business confidence. They are clearly in conflict with current policy discussions and we expect the Government to take a more level headed approach in the upcoming budget.”
Actors Equity was quick to voice its concern. Equity director Sue McCreadie said: “The proposals are not strategic and would be devastating for the screen production sector. However, we recognise the government will adopt some proposals, reject others, and put some aside for further assessment.
“In Senator Brandis we have a Minister who understands and values the film and arts sectors. As the arts minister in the Howard government who oversaw the review that established Screen Australia we are confident that he will resist any rash changes to assistance levels or structures.
“We will of course use the time between now and the budget to make a reasoned case against cuts or detrimental agency mergers."
In a press release issued today, Deaner added: "We cannot underestimate the importance of Screen Australia to the health of the screen industry. Last year 84 of the top 100 rating television programs were Australian and our feature films such as The Great Gatsby and The Railway Man were big box office hits.
“Without Screen Australia’s programs of support, many of the companies who make these fantastic Australian films and television programs could disappear.
“This would be disastrous for the Australian film and television industry and devastating to Australian audiences, who rightly expect and love to see Australian stories and voices on their screens. It would mean the loss of thousands of highly skilled jobs in an industry renowned for innovation and which makes a substantial contribution of about $3 billion annually to the Australian economy."
Australian Directors Guild exec director Kingston Anderson expressed a similar view, telling IF, "We would not support any cut in funding or the amalgamation of screen agencies. We would hope the government will carefully consider the proposals and make the right decisions."
It would be surprising if the Government adopted the proposals to gut Screen Australia, particularly since Brandis was the architect of the merger of the Film Finance Corporation, the Australian Film Commission and Film Australia and he has often voiced his support of the agency. Brandis’ office declined to comment.
The Commission also proposed axing the ABC’s pan-Asian Australia Network and while it did not suggest cutting funding for the ABC or SBS it said both public broadcasters should be “benchmarked” against each other and commercial rivals.
It claimed a single arts council would reduce administrative costs, support closer collaboration within the arts community and provide improved capacity for grant and procurement processes to be centrally and professionally managed.
The AFTRS move would be consistent with the principle that the Commonwealth should withdraw from activities that are outside its areas of core responsibility and could be more efficiently and effectively undertaken by the private sector or another jurisdiction, it said.