Pay TV boosts local content spending
Big budget ... Todd Lasance and Emma Booth in Foxtel's Cloudstreet.
Pay TV bosses upped their spend on Australian drama and other home grown productions last financial year, with new figures showing they poured $667 million into local content during the 2011-12 financial year.
Former Victorian premier and chairman of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) Steve Bracks announced the figures this morning at a breakfast at Parliament House, saying that they represented a 13 per cent increase in spending on Australian content from the previous year.
It is also important to note that the $667 million they invested ... includes very expensive sports rights.
Australian industry groups that rely on the commissioning of local content have broadly welcomed the figures, but expressed concern about the future of local content on new free to air multi-channels and other digital platforms.
Australian content critical ... Steve Bracks announces increased local content spending. Photo: Colleen Petch
President of the Australian Directors Guild Ray Argall said subscription television bosses had invested heavily in the Australian made television adaptation of Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet.
‘‘That has been a good example of a big budget production which has been really high quality,’’ he said.
‘‘They have invested in quality productions which we really encourage. Our position is that Australian content is absolutely critical and needs to be invested in and there needs to be very clear support measures to ensure there continues to be Australian content on our screens.
Costly ... networks spend up big on sports. Photo: Getty
‘‘We are still very concerned that - for multi channels across the board - there’s appropriate measurements to ensure Australian content. We have supported the initial recommendations of the Convergence Review but we are still waiting on Government for their response.’’
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Stephen Conroy, who spoke at the breakfast this morning to launch the figures contained in the Australian Content Investment and Employment Survey, said Government required subscription television bosses to commit at least 10 per cent of their total programming expenditure to new Australian drama.
Production Executive for the Screen Producers Association of Australia Owen Johnston praised pay television providers for the way they were using Australian content.
‘‘In the early years they met their Australian content obligations by being minority investors in programs made for other platforms,’’ he said.
‘‘Now they are driving the development of new Australian shows for their platform. However this wouldn’t happen without the Australian content regulation that requires the sector to spend 10 per cent of their program acquisition costs on new Australian drama.’’
Mr Johnson said that SPAA however estimated that only a fraction of the overall spend went on ‘‘original Australian stories’’.
‘‘It is also important to note that the $667 million they invested in Australian content includes all their running costs for news, lifestyle, music and light entertainment programs and in particular very expensive sports rights,’’ he said.
‘‘Only $33.5 million was spent on original Australian stories.’’
Chief executive officer of ASTRA Petra Buchanan defended the spend.
‘‘Subscription TV is producing local and original content beyond the mandatory expenditure required for drama,’’ she said.
‘‘The content produced appeals to viewers with diverse interests. The industry invests in telling Australian stories across various genres that include lifestyle programming, children’s entertainment, documentaries, sports and news.’’