Screen Aus report: levels of local screen content post sharp fall since 2008
Press release from Screen Australia
Screen Australia today released the first comprehensive analysis of Australian content across all media platforms in a report to the Federal Government’s Convergence Review.
The report, Convergence 2011: Australian Content State of Play, reveals a significant dilution of Australian content in the media diet. Since 2008, the hours of foreign content on free-to-air (FTA) television have increased 154 per cent greatly outstripping the growth in Australian content at 59 per cent.
While viewing across all FTA channels has increased by 14 per cent with the advent of digital channels, Australian content has fallen from 52 per cent of total hours broadcast in 2008, to 38 per cent in the first six months of 2011. The proportion of audience for Australian content has also decreased from 60 per cent to 51 per cent in the same time period.
“Audiences are fragmenting away from the main FTA channels to multi-channels that have no Australian content requirements and this has resulted in a significant decline in the diet of Australian content,” Screen Australia’s Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron, said today launching the report from Canberra.
“While high-speed broadband is set to hyper-accelerate the process of convergence, television remains the leading way of viewing screen content,” she said.
In 2010, 96 per cent of people aged 14 years and above indicated that they had watched either FTA television or subscription television in the preceding week for periods of over three hours on average per day. In the case of subscription households, television consumption is even greater with audiences watching four extra hours per week.
Significantly, it is the traditional media sector dominated by commercial television and feature films who are the only significant investors in Australian stories at this time. The combination of incentives and government requirements has ensured Australian stories remain on Australian screens. The difficulty, moving forward in a multi-channel, converged environment, is the economics of screen production.
Australian content is more expensive for broadcasters than foreign imported content. The high levels of production output from the US and the relative pricing of that content result in a lopsided marketplace for content whereby it is significantly cheaper for a broadcaster to purchase a high-rating US series like Two and a Half Men or decades-old programs like Charlie’s Angels, Miami Vice or Fantasy Island than to invest in production of new Australian programs. As a result, more than 70 per cent of the commercial FTA broadcasters’ drama expenditure relates to foreign drama.
“The strength of the US audiovisual sector is unsurpassed and the trend to greater levels of foreign content will only continue unless new ways of accommodating Australian stories on Australian screens are contemplated,” Ms Cameron said.
“Australia has a unique sense of national identity and an important Indigenous history. Australian stories reflect this sensibility and not only provide a valuable cultural contribution to our society but, importantly, generate a significant investment to the economy,” she said.
In the audiovisual production sector worth $2 billion plus, Screen Australia’s production data shows that Australian drama and documentary generated investment in excess of $700 million in 2009/10. This includes $124 million in foreign investment that would not otherwise come into the economy. Economic modelling commissioned by Screen Australia indicates that if such production ceased, there would be a net loss of 6,000 jobs or 20 per cent of all people working in the audiovisual production sector.
“Clearly the best argument for Australian content on Australian screens is that it rates well. This argument is not enough in the context of a flood of foreign content through multiple distribution points available dirt cheap.
“In an era of convergence, Screen Australia is keen to promote choice, access and diversity and looks forward to further contributing to the debate,” Ms Cameron said.
Screen Australia is hosting forums in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney as well as a live webinar to present and discuss the report findings with industry.
Download the full report.
For more information about the forums and webinar visit: www.screenaustralia.gov.au/news_and_events/Events/2011/ConvergenceReview.aspx
Download as PDF.