Changes to Screen Offsets Creates Renewed Urgency for Australian Content Reforms

Changes to Screen Offsets Creates Renewed Urgency for Australian Content Reforms

Changes to Screen Offsets Creates Renewed Urgency for Australian Content Reforms – The passage last week through Parliament of an increase in Australia’s Location Offset from 16.5% to 30% has justifiably caused much celebration across the Australian screen industry. However, while long-awaited streaming regulation remains on hold, this lopsided outcome has also created considerable anxiety as to where this leaves the overall screen industry and a concern that, if local content regulation proposals lapse, where our screen industry future may be heading.  

“While the recent confirmation of the increase in Australia’s Location Offset that benefits non-Australian projects was great news, the absence of commensurate certainty for Australia’s home-grown industry and Australian projects through streaming regulation is now causing great angst in our industry,”

– SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said. 

“Over the past week, I’ve been contacted by members around Australia who are concerned about where our industry now stands. This is particularly the case as the 1 July 2024 start date for streaming regulation has come and gone with no new timeframe from the Government. 

“Without a counterbalance in local works and robust commissioning, the changes that passed Parliament last week will mean that the Australian screen sector is on track to develop more as a service provider for Hollywood productions, who are encouraged here to take advantage of generous rebates, rather than grow our own local storytelling capabilities.  Available data tells the same story. 

“Right now, Australian audiences are finding it harder and harder to find their culture and heritage on screens. The balance of Government interventions in our industry should always lean towards Australians telling and producing Australian stories.

“In what has now been two years since the Albanese Government was elected and 18 months since the launch of Australia’s National Cultural Policy Revive with its promise to Australian audiences, we have not seen any progress in addressing the decline in Australian screen culture – on any platform.

“Opportunities include full restoration of cuts made to the ABC and SBS and Screen Australia under former Governments as well as new investments, reviewing and better balancing the regulation on subscription and commercial (public service) television, comprehensive reviews and adjustments of offsets and export and international co-production strategies as well as introducing promised regulation of streaming (SVOD and BVOD) services all of which have the potential to simulate our Australian storytelling.

“We deeply value our international and global producing partners and the benefits they bring to our shores – but we must ensure that our local industry is robust, resilient and prioritised regarding support measures. 

“Our Australian screen industry should aim always to remain open to new entrants to ensure diversity and stories from the grassroots of society. Almost everyone gets their start in the local industry. 

“That’s why local must always be our first, second and third priority as an industry, government and society,” 

Mr Deaner said.
KEY FACTS

Current trends show that the momentum for production expenditure is on the side of international works – leaving those in our industry who seek to tell local stories crowded out and struggling to secure a seat at the commissioning table.

OFFSETS

Location Offset:

This change increases the tax rebate to encourage large-scale screen productions to film in Australia from 16.5 to 30 per cent. It includes new eligibility requirements for productions to meet minimum training obligations or contribute to the broader workforce and infrastructure capacity of the sector, and use one or more Australian providers to deliver post-production, digital and visual effects for the production. This applies retrospectively to eligible productions that commenced filming on or after 1 July 2023.

Producer Offset:

This change introduces a new minimum expenditure threshold for drama series of $35 million per season in qualifying Australian production expenditure – that is, expenditure incurred for goods and services used or provided in Australia. This applies in addition to the current per hour threshold of $1 million of QAPE and minimum of $500,000 per hour expenditure. The new Producer Offset minimum expenditure threshold will apply to drama series that commence filming on or after 1 July 2024.

SVODS

Public data captured in the ACMA report on spending by the five major SVODs shows in 2022-23 that spending on “Australian-related” or international screen projects increased in 2022-23 to $452.9m from $333.4m the previous year. By contrast, over the same time frame, spending on Australian content by the five major streaming platforms dropped in 2022-23 to $324.1m from $335.1m the previous year.

COMMERCIAL FTA (PUBLIC) BROADCASTERS

ACMA figures again show a drop in Australian drama and in particular children’s programs. For example, Australia’s commercial broadcasters spent nothing ($0) on Australian children’s drama in 2022-23.

This decline was further examined in a recent QUT report, Australian Television Drama’s Uncertain Future: How Cultural Policy is Failing Australian, which found that Hours of Australian television drama released each year by all channels and services declined significantly between 1999 and 2023: adult drama fell from 570 to 300 broadcast hours, and children’s drama more than halved, from 106 to 51 hours. This study also found that over the ten years to 2023, funding for television from federal sources increased by an average of 15.6% each year, while the hours of Australian TV drama available fell by an annual average of 5.6%.

Media Release – SPA

Link to SPA HERE

TV Central Screen Australia content HERE

Changes to Screen Offsets Creates Renewed Urgency for Australian Content Reforms

Changes to Screen Offsets Creates Renewed Urgency for Australian Content Reforms
Matthew Deaner (image – SPA)

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