New figures from the ACMA reporting on Australian content transmission quotas (ACS) released yesterday, combined with last month’s figures showing compliance with the Australian Content and Children’s Television Standards (ACCTS) show an alarming drop across critical categories of Australian content on commercial free-to-air broadcasters.
Across key first release Australian categories reported on, including drama, children’s drama, children’s programs (including drama) and documentary – figures show a significant drop in broadcast hours reflecting changes made by the previous government at the height of Covid.
“I do not know how anyone could look at these figures and say that the Australian public is being well served by the current regulation of our commercial broadcasters,” SPA CEO Matt Deaner said.
“The data in particular shows the effect of a lack of any current requirement to screen any minimum Australian children’s content – overturning a long-standing broadcasting content principle and leading to what is now a collapse of the Australian children’s content industry.
“It is hypocritical for commercial free-to-air broadcasters to be asking government for extensions to their industry protection through the anti-siphoning framework on the basis of audience access while at the same time fighting to deny audiences access to range of other important content.
“Surely it is just as important for Australian kids to see their own local stories on free-tv channels as much as it is for them to see their sporting teams?
“Australian children 16 years and under make up 21% of the Australian population and deserve to see and hear themselves and their stories on these public services.
“In the context of Australia’s new National Cultural Policy currently under development, we need to seriously consider whether this is the right outcome that meets the social and cultural needs of the Australian public.
“Industry recognises the shift in viewing for all audiences towards streaming platforms and away from free-to-air.
“However, social equity considerations mean that there is a strong public interest consideration in ensuring that child audiences have access to a diverse range of quality programming both in front of paywalls as well as behind them.
“We know that around 30% of Australian households do not pay for streaming services so children in these homes are increasingly locked out of seeing their own unique stories on screen.
“The result of the previous governments deregulation of broadcasting content is no newly commissioned Australian children’s drama. These are the programs that give our kids an early appreciation for seeing their own stories, culture, and voices on screen.
Recent analysis of free-to-air broadcasted programming by SPA shows that Australian commercial free-to-air tv channels broadcast on average just over 600 hours of children’s programs per month.
However, as a direct result of the previous government’s deregulation of this sector, less than 15% of these hours are Australian stories – and very few are new.
The commercial networks have channels targeted to children, and at least one commercial network’s channel that broadcasts children’s programmes has an Australian content level that is below 5%.
Child audiences of commercial free-to-air networks are being flooded with mostly American shows and have very little access to their own culture on these channels.
“SPA believes that new regulation is needed to ensure that if a commercial broadcaster programs for child audiences, then a reasonable and commensurate proportion of those hours and titles should be newly commissioned Australian stories,” said SPA CEO Matthew Deaner.
“It simply can’t be all take and no give, as it is at present.
“It is a failing of our regulatory system to allow commercial broadcasters to abandon the needs of Australian child audiences and just leave it to public broadcasters to do the heavy lifting in investing in this work.
“We all know the budget pressures that have faced the ABC and SBS in recent years, leaving them constrained in their ability to address the huge investment shortfall that has been left when commercial broadcasters dropped their interest in commissioning Australian children’s titles.
“The evidence is clear and now it is up to the Australian Government, through the new National Cultural Policy, to tell us if this is good enough,” Mr Deaner said.
Link to SPA’s Children’s Content Factsheet HERE.