David Anderson.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted 70 productions which the ABC has commissioned from a total of 50 independent producers, according to MD David Anderson.

“I am worried about the creative sector in this crisis and what will happen on the other side,” Anderson said today. “It’s important to who we are in this country.”

In conversation with Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner, Anderson identified his other major concern as filling the ABC networks’ program schedules later this year and into 2021.

“We don’t want to rely on international acquisitions to either fill the schedule or make up the inventory sitting on our SVOD service,” he said.

It’s clear the broadcaster is looking to partially make up the delivery shortfall with local programming as Anderson said he would announce deals later this week to re-license Australian content.

Last week ABC director of entertainment and specialist Michael Carrington unveiled a $5 million development fund to supercharge the development of new drama, comedy, children’s, factual, music and arts programming.

Submissions open from May 4 to June 12 and Anderson promised the money would flow quickly after executives decide which projects are worth progressing. He hopes “quite a few things” will eventuate.

The ABC would look to fast track entertainment and factual shows while dramas including Jungle Entertainment and BBC Studios’ Wakefield, season three of Hoodlum Entertainment’s Harrow and Closer Productions’ Yes, Chef! are suspended or delayed.

Deaner asked about the suspension of local content quotas and the Federal Government’s options paper including the model which calls for increased funding for children’s programming for the ABC and SBS.

Anderson said he understands why the Seven, Nine and 10 Networks want to kill the kids quota, observing “they can’t monetize” that programming.

While he said the ABC would always make and commission children’s programming it could not increase that output unless it received more funding.

The MD commended the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts Paul Fletcher for delivering the options paper, pointedly observing Fletcher’s predecessor Mitch Fifield failed to do so.

Anderson urged the screen industry to speak with one voice when it responds to the government. In reply, Deaner said SPA is consulting widely with its members, unions and other stakeholders, promising: “We will get as common a position as possible.”