SPAA’s Brian Rosen calls on government to raise support for local content
Screen Producers Association of Australia (SPAA) president Brian Rosen has called on the government to implement the convergence review recommendations and increase its support for local screen content.
The convergence review was released earlier this year and made a range of sweeping recommendations including doubling the level of the Producer Offset to 40 per cent for “premium” television and potentially requiring a wider range of companies, dubbed “content service enterprises”, to contribute to the cost of producing local content. However, the government has yet to respond to the recommendations after several months.
“Two of our three commercial free-to-air networks are foreign owned,” Rosen said at the 2012 SPAA conference. “Why am I cynical about their allegiance to Australian content? Why do I feel that given half the chance they would do away with Australian content if the cost of acquiring it affected their bottom line. And as for the telcos – forget it – they are no way engaged in screening Australian content.”
The industry is also grappling with uncertainty about the definition of a “documentary” after the government, as part of its May budget, said it plans to release guidelines which would apply retrospectively from July. The new guidelines are expected to limit the type of “documentary” which would qualify for the 20 per cent Producer Offset after Screen Australia lost a court case in March challenging Essential Media and Entertainment’s claim that cleaning series Lush House was a documentary.
“If the government really wants to change the legislation then at the very least do not do it at this late stage in a retrospective manner,” Rosen said. “How can we run our businesses with this kind of uncertainty hanging over us. How can we seek investment or borrow finance when the future as to how our businesses operate is so unclear. And to add to that why is government looking at ways to restrict what can access the Producer Offset when in fact it should be supporting growth.”
He also called on the government to raise the 16.5 per cent Location Offset to 30 per cent and broaden the Offset to include interactive games.
He challenged the ongoing argument that the government is under fiscal pressure and cannot afford to make such changes.
“There are $40 billion being spent on the NBN that allows content from all over the world to be readily available to Australians but they cannot afford to put Australian content into that pipeline. Surely out of $40… billion a miserable $1 billion could be found to ensure that Australians see themselves reflected on screens with pride.”
Arts minister Simon Crean will speak at the SPAA Conference later this week.