Producers look to new Government
Screen producers are hopeful an incoming Coalition Government will agree to their pleas to lift the producer offset for TV drama from 20% to 40% and to raise the uncompetitive 16.5% location rebate to 30%.
Producers are also optimistic the next Government will reject proposals by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) which they fear would severely weaken Australian copyright law.
Statements by the Shadow Arts Minister, Senator George Brandis, at a forum staged in Canberra on Wednesday by the Screen Producers Association of Australia were widely seen as encouraging signs of the policies the Coalition is likely to adopt in Government.
Brandis and Arts Minister Tony Burke took part in a Q&A session moderated by Sky News’ David Speers.
While he gave no commitments, Brandis indicated that, if elected, he is willing to listen to arguments that the producer offset and location rebate should be increased to meet market needs. He hinted at the prospect of these measures being “tweaked.”
Brandis listened attentively when SPAA executive director Matthew Deaner branded the ALRC’s copyright proposals as “misguided.” While the Senator did not respond directly to Deaner’s remarks, his broad smile suggests he is across the issue and it is unlikely that a Coalition Government would implement those reforms.
Addressing Screen Australia’s Jobs, Dollars, Hearts and Minds conference in Canberra on Tuesday, Deaner said the ALRC recommends “repealing all existing copyright exceptions (including Screenrights Statutory licences) and replacing them with a vague concept imported from the US known as ‘fair use’ which would be largely determined by litigation. “
He added, “The current discussion from the ALRC appears to have been seduced by interests whose priority it is to seek to exploit the investment and risk made by others. Those that make the original works appear to have been ignored.”
At the SPAA breakfast Burke batted away criticism that the producer offset should not apply to films such as The Great Gatsby, stating the incentive should be available to Australian filmmakers, not just to Australian-set stories. In a rare show of unity, Brandis agreed.
If the Canberra policy conference were designed to focus the minds of politicians on the challenges facing the screen industry, it got off to a bad start. Burke and Brandis’ flights to Canberra were delayed by fog and neither arrived in time to deliver the speeches scheduled for Tuesday morning following Screen Australia chairman Glen Boreham’s opening address. Burke’s speech was delivered by an Arts Department official.
However SPAA president Brian Rosen said the conference and Wednesday’s forum achieved their intended purpose. “It was a very successful presentation to Government in Canberra,” Rosen told IF. “Both Burke and Brandis expressed their support for the screen industry.”
The conference was attended by about 200 people; the vast majority, including federal and state agencies personnel, travelled there on other people’s money. The cost and location deterred producers from other States.