Producers decry Screen Australia budget cut
Screen Australia will be forced to cut its funding programs after the federal budget reduced its allocation by $3.6 million over the next four years, to the chagrin of producers and directors.
That’s part of $13.2 million in cuts to arts and cultural programs administered by Screen Australia, the Australia Council and Attorneyâ€‘General's Department.
The government said the savings will be “redirected to repair the budget and fund policy priorities.”
That’s another bitter pill for Screen Australia after last year’s budget slashed its funding by $38 million over four years, including a $25 million reduction in the overall appropriation; ending the $10 million Australian games funding program; and curtailing the interactive multiplatform funding initiative in 2017-18.
"Since its formation from three entities in 2008, Screen Australia has reduced its operating costs by 44%," it said. "While the agency will continue to contain operating costs the budget reduction will be apportioned across our funding programs."
The organisation said the cuts will be applied across the board, partly in response to market needs, but will not target any specific programs, unlike last year when documentary funding was reduced. "Funds will continue to be allocated against our primary filters of quality, culture and innovation," said a spokeswoman.
However producers fear project investment will be hit. Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner said, “Our concerns about disproportionate cuts to Screen Australia 12 months ago are amplified following this year's budget announcement.
“To compound $38 million in cuts with a further $3.6 million over the coming four years will seriously impact the screen industry. This further cut of almost $1 million per year is both significant and major.
“Screen Australia's investment in feature film, drama and documentaries is critical to supporting the small businesses in our sector and the content they create for Australian and global audiences.
“These cuts are likely to come out of project investment following the existing operational efficiencies that have been implemented. As a result there will certainly be less investment in diversity.”
Deaner called on the government to balance these cuts by immediately increasing the producer offset for television. Almost certainly that is a forlorn hope given the Treasury’s implacable opposition to measures which result in foregone revenue, such as raising the offset and the location rebate and, probably, changing the rules to enable features that don't get theatrical release to qualify for the offset.
Australian Directors Guild CEO Kingston Anderson told IF, "I am appalled by the cuts. We believed that the substantial cuts last year were the last for several years. If this is any indication of the government’s attitude to the screen industry then we can expect more next year.
"This is in light of the government possibly looking to reduce the license fees for broadcasters by many millions. It does not make sense and we believe it will not impact on the government’s bottom line but it certainly will have major implications for the funding of film and television production."
MEAA CEO Paul Murphy said, "To see another $3.6 million lost to funding the screen productions that provide Australian actors and crew with much needed work and audiences with much needed local content is hugely disappointing.
“Sadly, the major area of budget growth of interest to MEAA members was the allocation of $153.8 million over four years to support the implementation of the government’s mandatory data retention regime.”
There were no reductions in funding for the ABC, SBS or AFTRS.
The government confirmed it will impose the goods and services tax on Netflix and other offshore-based streaming companies and suppliers, but not until July 1 2017.
That measure will have a far wider impact than expected. KPMG said the GST will apply to non-residents supplying “anything other than goods or real property” to Australian consumers.
Services and intangibles such as consulting, software licences, on-line advertising, gaming, video streaming and even some on-line education courses may be impacted, it said.