Today Screen Producers Australia (SPA) CEO Matthew Deaner shared his dismay at Seven West Media’s statements that it will halt production on children’s content from next year:

“Children’s content plays a critical role in the production and viewing ecosystem. Australian parents have a right to freely access quality Australian content specifically designed for the needs of their children across trusted brands such as Seven, Nine and Ten. A move by any of these broadcasters to try and evade their obligations or pressure Government and the broader industry is disappointing.”

Addressing the commercial free-to-air broadcasters’ concerns about lower audiences for children’s content, Deaner stated:
“In an age of abundance where so much content is available to everyone, everywhere, first run broadcast numbers for all types of content are in decline. However, well made and well marketed children’s content in particular has a lengthy currency with strong second and third run repeat audiences and alternate and online platforms, not to mention international sales in hundreds of foreign territories. A thoughtless removal of quotas would act as a reward to what has been a steady decline in investments, promotion and marketing of quality Australian children’s content and destroy so much of the ecology of the sector.
The ACMA has previously reported that the spend on all children’s content (Australian and foreign) is traditionally around 1.5-1.6% of total programming expenditure for the commercial free-to-air broadcasters with new Australian production being about a third of this (about 0.5%). Therefore, while halting production of this content will result in only minimal savings for the broadcasters it will have a much greater negative effect on the small businesses which not only export our unique stories to the world but also support thousands of jobs and generate substantial production revenue here in Australia.”
Deaner acknowledged that the current media landscape was changing, and that Australia’s regulatory environment needs to be advanced to keep pace:

“Never before have Australians been faced with such an array of global content. In addition to foreign market entrants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, we also have local SVOD services such as Stan and broadcaster catch-up services such as 7 Plus and 10 Play. As such, we are very keen to work with the Government and all content platforms to evolve rather than devolve the current regulations to ensure a platform neutral, level playing field for all that reflects the relevant differences but brings all players into a comprehensive system to ensure that those who benefit from our content creation and distribution systems also contribute to them.

Globally this is being navigated with great care. The experience in the UK and Canada highlights the importance of getting regulatory settings and public investment levels right to ensure diversity of quality content and a sustainable local industry to be able to deliver it.”

Deaner also referred to the Government’s Broadcast and Content Reform Package of 2017:
“In 2017, with the applause of the commercial free-to-air broadcasters, the Government abolished licence fees and adopted a spectrum charge with the stated intent that this reform would allow these businesses to support Australian jobs, invest in great local programming and meet advances in technology and changing consumer viewing habits, to ensure they could effectively compete with the giant multinational media companies. To renege on commitments to local content a mere three years later is a flagrant disregard for the underlying intent of these reforms.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with the Government on these issues upon the release of the options paper currently being prepared by the ACMA and Screen Australia.”

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