SPA calls on ABC to preserve drama, kids’ budgets

11 February, 2014 by Don Groves

Screen Producers Australia executive director Matt Deaner has called on the ABC to preserve its commitments to adult and children’s drama in the face of the efficiency audit ordered by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Deaner also made an impassioned plea to the Australian government not to meddle with TV quotas and screen industry funding.


“The ABC needs to publicly loudly and proudly reassure the production community and the Australian public that there has not been and will not be a reduction in the level of investment it makes in children’s content,” Deaner told the Kidscreen summit in New York today.

“In particular, 2012/13 budget levels must be maintained in order for ABC to successfully deliver on its two children’s channels, as was the intention of Government.

“In the search for operational efficiencies the programming budgets to drama and children’s must be ring-fenced and openly and proudly defined so as not to see plummeting levels of production reminiscent of the mid-2000s.”

Deaner cited a number of challenges facing children’s producers including financing pressures and domestic commissioning levels which, he said, are largely, if not entirely, predicated on content obligations by commercial free-to-air broadcasters, the very occasional expenditure by subscription television drama channel providers and public investment through the ABC and screen agencies.

Less than 1% of the commercial broadcasters' hours are devoted to kids programming and their spending on that category has been static over the past five years.

Declines in expenditure on high cost children’s drama (around $550,000 per hour) had been offset by an increase in cheaper, high-volume factual and light entertainment costing $38,000 per hour.

Despite cuts in broadcasting licence fees there had been no flow-on effect in the funding of local content.

Deaner lauded recent successes including Me & My Monsters, a co-production between Australia's Sticky Pictures, the UK’s Tiger Aspect Productions and the Jim Henson Company, Jonathan M. Shiff Productions’ Mako Mermaids, Werner Film Productions’ Dance Academy and Matchbox Pictures’ Nowhere Boys.

More broadly, Deaner said, “In light of recent announcements regarding deregulation and efficiency audits, we are continuing to work with the Australian Government to ensure that our elected officials understand that any negative effect from these reviews will threaten small business, a large number of jobs and our industry’s growing export potential.

“This risks damaging our economy, and more importantly, it will also short-change the Australian pubic, particularly Australian children.”