The Australian screen industry is facing the fight of its life. A renewed commitment is needed from government to bring our stories to our screens.
Labor: Labor believes that all content services in the business of providing Australians with professional content, that meet certain scale and service criteria, should be contributing to the health and sustainability of our screen content sector by providing Australian content. This includes SVOD services. The precise requirements should be developed based on evidence and public consultation as part of the process under Labor’s Taskforce.
Liberal: The SVOD market is still an emerging market in Australia. As part of their initial entry into the Australian market, SVOD services have acquired Australian back catalogue content and made various co-production deals to invest in new Australian programming. Any regulatory obligations placed on SVOD services must balance the viewing choices of Australian audiences with the SVOD industry’s continued growth and sustainability in Australia. This is an area that will be kept under review.
The Morrison Government provides significant support to the Australian screen industry recognising the important role it plays in shaping our national identity. A viable domestic screen production sector is essential for audiences to have access to quality Australian content. The government recognises this through investment in the industry using a range of mechanisms, including tax rebates, direct funding and regulatory measures, designed to support the production of Australian content and promote the development of a sustainable production sector.
The Government’s support mechanisms all combine to assist the Australian industry to create unique film, television and online content that is extremely popular with audiences here and abroad. The period of 2017-18 saw expenditure of $718 million on local productions, including feature films, television and online content, a record breaking year for expenditure on Australian projects.
Greens: The Greens have worked hard to protect and support Australian content. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young recently chaired the Senate inquiry into Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services. As part of this report The Australian Greens recommended that the Australian Government implement at least a 10 per cent expenditure, and a separate promotion, obligation on SVOD services operating in Australia.
Labor: Labor believes that a diversity of services should provide a diversity of Australian content, including children’s content on commercial free-to-air TV. These requirements should be examined as part of the evidence-based and consultative process under Labor’s Taskforce.
Liberal: Content obligations require that minimum levels of children’s content are made available on broadcasting services. The Children’s Television Standards 2009 sets minimum quotas for certain format genres, including ‘P’ (preschool) and ‘C’ (children’s) programs. Any changes in this area would need to be made carefully and with industry consensus.
Greens: The Australian Greens strongly reject calls to reduce current content obligations. Children’s television contributes to the cognitive, emotional and creative development of children and young people. It is crucial that Australian children grow up with a strong sense of identity that reflects our culture and values.
As part of the Senate inquiry into Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services we recommended that the content quota system be maintained to ensure the production of uniquely Australian content, and children’s television.
Labor: Labor believes that a diversity of services should provide a diversity of Australian content, including adult drama and documentary programs and including for commercial free-to-air and/or subscription TV. These requirements should be examined as part of the evidence-based and consultative process under Labor’s Taskforce.
Liberal: One of the objectives of the Broadcasting Services Act is to promote the role of broadcasting services in developing and reflecting a sense of Australian identity, character, and cultural diversity. This role is promoted via programming quotas requiring minimum amount of content produced under the creative control of Australians to be broadcast. Any changes in this area would need to be made carefully and with industry consensus.
Greens: As mentioned above, the Australian Greens are strong supporters of Australian content and support the maintenance of current Australian content obligations for all broadcasters.
Labor: Labor is of the view that these settings need to be examined as part of the evidence-based and consultative process under Labor’s Taskforce.
Labor has a long-term commitment to a well-supported and funded Australian film and television industry. We know that government support for the Australian film and television industry encourages increased investment, trains further talent and assists market development as well as creating stories that Australians love to watch.
Labor understands the role that competitive incentives play, for example in demonstrating Australia’s position as a world-class filming and production destination and that encouraging large-scale film and TV production to locate to Australia results in jobs for Australia’s creative talent including technicians. We know that providing great economic, employment and skill development opportunities is important to sustainable high skill jobs development in this rapidly growing area of the global economy.
Liberal: The largest screen production companies in the world are choosing Australia due to the Morrison Government’s $140 million location incentive and decision to give access to the PDV Offset and Location Offset to series solely distributed through online services.
Australian crew and creatives are recognised as world class and are highly sought after for high profile, big budget productions around the globe. Now, thanks to the Morrison Government, there are more opportunities at home for them to showcase their skills and build sustainable businesses.
The Producer Offset, coupled with direct investment from Screen Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation and supported by investment in the next generation at AFTRS and NIDA, is delivering quality content.
The Morrison Government’s focus is on building a robust screen sector as the best basis for vibrant Australian stories to continue to be told.
Greens: As part of our recommendations in the Senate inquiry into Australian content on broadcast, radio and streaming services we recommended that the Australian Government:
• introduce a single Producer Offset of 40 per cent for all types of qualifying production, including both film and television – this Producer Offset should only be available to production companies that do not also hold a broadcasting licence, to ensure the future of Australia’s independent production sector;
• remove the 65 hour cap on television series from accessing the Producer Offset; and
• increase the Location Offset to 30 per cent.
Labor: On the eve of the 2013 election the Liberals promised there would be “no cuts to the ABC”. That was a lie.
Labor acknowledges the central importance of properly funded public broadcasters in contributing to the screen ecosystem, and will reverse the indexation freeze, which amounts to a cut in real terms.
The ABC is Australia’s largest creative employer and by far the nation’s leading broadcaster in supporting homegrown stories and boosting the Australian screen industry,
including independent producers.
A Shorten Labor Government will:
• Reverse Scott Morrison’s unfair $83.7 million cut to the ABC.
• Guarantee stable funding for the ABC over its three year budget cycle.
• Provide $2 million to the ABC to restore shortwave radio in the Northern Territory.
• Provide $10 million to the ABC to support regional broadcasting, more local and regional content, emergency broadcasting and regional jobs.
• Provide $3 million to the ABC for a News Literacy Program to help young Australians discern real news from disinformation.
Labor has defended the ABC against the Liberals’ cuts and attacks to its independence because we are committed to a comprehensive and independent public broadcaster,
free from political interference and commercial influence.
Labor will never privatise the ABC.
There is a clear choice in this election between Labor, who stands for a strong and independent ABC, or the Liberals who have shown they will attack and cut the ABC at every
Liberal: The Morrison Government’s investment in the ABC is an important underpinning of media diversity and also a significant Commonwealth contribution to civic journalism in Australia.
Over the next three years, the ABC will receive $3.2 billion – more than $1 billion per annum – which includes an additional $43.7 million to continue the enhanced news measures, supporting local news and current affairs.
It is important to recognise that in a rapidly changing media environment, the ABC has more funding certainty than other media organisations in the nation.
Labor: To support Australian screen content, Labor will provide $40 million to the ABC for Australian content across scripted drama, comedy, children’s and music and $20 million to SBS for Australian content, increasing the percentage of Australian content on the SBS main channel.
Labor will also reverse the Liberals’ $83.7 million unfair cut to the ABC, as well as guarantee funding certainty over the next ABC budget cycle.
In addition, Labor will provide $15 million to the ABC to:
• Bolster regional news and emergency broadcasting.
• Help restore shortwave radio in the Northern Territory.
• Support a news literacy program to fight disinformation and fake news.
In addition, Labor will provide $4 million to the ABC and SBS to upgrade systems to provide audio description for blind and low vision Australians.
Labor will ensure the national broadcasters are properly funded. We will keep the ban on ABC advertising and sponsorship in place and not extend the current advertising levels on SBS.
Liberal: The Morrison Government is providing more than $4 billion to the national broadcasters over the next three years to keep delivering their highly-valued services to the community.
Over the next three years, the ABC will receive in excess of $1 billion per annum, while SBS will receive around $300 million per annum. The Government’s investment in the national broadcasters is an important underpinning of media diversity and also a significant contribution to civic journalism in Australia.
Greens (combined answer to five and six): The ABC has been cut by more than 1,000 jobs and more than $300 million since Tony Abbott went to the 2013 election promising no cuts to the ABC.
The Greens would restore every dollar cut from the ABC’s budget by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison Government since 2013, and grow the ABC’s funding year-on-year to account for those years of chronic underfunding. This represents an investment of $320 million through to 2021-22, and $1.227 billion over the decade.
We also believe that funding for the ABC should be done by hard law not handshakes. We would amend the ABC Act to create a standing appropriation – making funding of the ABC law, not subject to the whim of the government of the day. This would help recover the jobs lost and restore and protect the news-breaking ability of our nation’s public media across the country.
Labor: Labor will work with Screen Australia to ensure it is properly funded going forward.
The policy and regulatory framework for Australian and Children’s Screen Content will be examined in an evidence-based and consultative manner in the process under Labor’s Taskforce.
Liberal: The Morrison Government’s commitment to Budget repair is delivering the first surplus in more than a decade. Like most other portfolios, the Arts portfolio has provided a contribution to Budget repair, but significant efforts were made to keep those reductions as small as possible. Screen Australia is still receiving significant funding from the Government every year.
Greens: We have long supported the work of Screen Australia and, in addition to restoring funding to Screen Australia so they can continue their important work, the Greens recognise that grassroots content creation needs access to support and funding. Local content creates jobs and sustains creative industries in Australia.
The Greens would establish a Content Creator Fund to set aside a grant fund of $50 million each year for the production of local content. This fund would help support high-quality local content, our creative industry and, importantly, allow Australians to keep telling their own stories. As part of the Greens’ commitment to First Nations media, $2 million of that fund would be available exclusively for First Nations content creation.
WE are storytellers – writers, producers, directors, casts and crews who make screen stories that honour past Australians and connect present and future generations to our history and to our values.
YOU are elected representatives – the custodians of Australia’s stories, our unique culture. You create the environment within which our nation’s stories thrive or die.
Ours is a partnership. And we need your help.
Our ability to keep telling Australian stories on screen is at risk, our voices in danger of being drowned out by a deluge of overseas content.
And if our nation’s stories aren’t told, they die. And when they die, future generations won’t know who we are and what makes us us.
That’s why we need to ‘Make it Australian’.
Then we can compete. Australians telling the diverse stories of our people, our country.
We call on parliamentarians, the custodians of our uniquely Australian stories, to commit to growing our screen industry so that our Australian stories will be told to our children, grandchildren and the generations of Australians that follow.
Camilla Ah Kin (Actor); Gillian Armstrong (Director); Su Armstrong (Producer); Tony Ayres (Director); Michala Banas (Actor); Tony Barry (Actor); Simon Baker (Actor); Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Actor); Steve Bastoni (Actor); Nicholas Beauman ASE (Screen Editor); Dion Beebe ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Nicholas Bell (Actor); Amanda Bishop (Actor); Wayne Blair (Actor); Rachael Blake (Actor); Cate Blanchett AC (Actor); Russell Boyd ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Patrick Brammall (Actor); Shane Brennan (Screenwriter); Tony Briggs (Actor); Anna Broinowski (Director); Jonathan Brough (Director); Bryan Brown AM (Actor); Chris Brown (Producer); Simon Burke AO (Actor); Jason Burrows (Producer); Mitchell Butel (Actor); Robyn Butler (Actor); Rose Byrne (Actor); Annie Byron (Actor); Rob Carlton (Actor); Peter Carroll (Actor); Michael Caton (Actor); Penny Chapman (Producer); Shareena Clanton (Actor); Dustin Clare (Actor); Justine Clarke (Actor); Adelaide Clements (Actor); John Collee (Screenwriter); Toni Collette (Actor); Ian Collie (Producer); Robert Collins (Actor); Robert Connolly (Director); Dany Cooper ASE (Screen Editor); Michael Cordell (Producer); Wendy Cork APDG (Costume Designer); Rodger Corser (Actor); Jai Courtney (Actor); Deb Cox (Producer); Stephen Curry (Actor); Helen Dallimore (Actor); Henry Dangar ASE (Screen Editor); Matt Day (Actor); Alexandre de Franceschi ASE (Screen Editor); Rolf De Heer (Director); Kate Dennis (Director); Jason Donovan (Actor); Terry Donovan (Actor); John Doyle (Screenwriter); Beverley Dunn (Set Decorator); Marta Dusseldorp (Actor); Harriet Dyer (Actor); Fiona Eagger (Producer); Joel Edgerton (Actor); John Edwards (Producer); Ben Elton (Screenwriter); Alexander England (Actor); Daniela Farinacci (Actor); Carl Fennessy (Producer); Mark Fennessy OAM (Producer); David Field (Actor); Angie Fielder (Producer); Jack Finsterer (Actor); Alan Fletcher (Actor); Roger Ford (Production Designer); Lucy Fry (Actor); Lizzy Gardiner (Costume Designer); Nadine Garner (Actor); Rebecca Gibney (Actor); Colin Gibson APDG (Production ); Designer); Antony I Ginnane (Producer); Rachel Gordon (Actor); Ian Gracie APDG (Supervising Art ); Director); Pippa Grandison (Actor); Gyton Grantley (Actor); Mac Gudgeon (Screenwriter); Don Hany (Actor); Anthony Hayes (Actor); Noni Hazlehurst (Actor); Chris Hemsworth (Actor); Damon Herriman (Actor); Scott Hicks (Director); Chris Hilton (Producer); PJ Hogan (Director); Frankie J Holden OAM (Actor); Wayne Hope (Actor); Sacha Horler (Actor); Lachy Hulme (Actor); Peter James ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Tom Jeffrey AM (Producer); Veronika Jenet ASE (Screen Editor); Ron Johanson OAM ACS (Cinematographer); Laura Jones (Screenwriter); David Jowsey (Producer); Claudia Karvan (Actor); Sean Keenan (Actor); Deborah Kennedy (Actor); Andrew Knight (Screenwriter); Samantha Lang (Director); Anthony LaPaglia (Actor); Michela Ledwidge (Director); David Lee (Sound Recordist); Steve Le Marquand (Actor); Jacinta Leong APDG (Art Director); Ewen Leslie (Actor); George Liddle APDG (Production Designer); Jeremy Lindsay-Taylor (Actor); Rob Mackenzie (Sound Editor); Deborah Mailman (Actor); Jessica Marais (Actor); Lex Marinos (Actor); Damian Martin (Prosthetic Makeup Artist); Catherine Martin APDG (Production Designer); Don McAlpine ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Catherine McClements (Actor); Andrew McFarlane (Actor); Jacqueline McKenzie (Actor); Ray Meagher (Actor); Nick Meyers ASE (Screen Editor); Sue Milliken AO (Producer); Heather Mitchell (Actor); Jocelyn Moorhouse (Director); Kestie Morassi (Actor); Geoff Morrell (Actor); Kate Mulvany (Actor); Nick Murray (Producer); Igor Nay (Production Designer); Sam Neill (Actor); Robyn Nevin (Actor); Phil Noyce (Director); Chris Oliver-Taylor (Producer); Ben Osmo (Production Sound Mixer); Hunter Page-Lochard (Actor); Helen Panckhurst (Producer); Georgie Parker (Actor); Owen Paterson APDG (Production Designer); Craig Pearce (Screenwriter); guy Pearce (Actor); Deborah Peart ASE (Screen Editor); Jen Peedom (Director); Rachel Perkins (Director); Jacquelin Perske (Screenwriter); Adrienne Pickering (Actor); Jo Porter (Producer); Susie Porter (Actor); Leah Purcell (Actor); Daina Reid (Director); Chloe Rickard (Producer); Deborah Riley (Production Designer); Brian Rosen (Producer); Richard Roxburgh (Actor); Bill Russo ASE (Screen Editor); Martin Sacks (Actor); Jan Sardi (Screenwriter); Fred Schepisi (Director); John Seale AM ACS ASC (); Cinematographer); Dean Semler AM ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Emile Sherman (Producer); Greer Simpkin (Producer); Sarah Snook (Actor); Dan Spielman (Actor); Kriv Stenders (Director); Barbara Stephen (Producer); Kat Stewart (Actor); Yael Stone (Actor); Gary Sweet (Actor); Nadia Tass (Director); Michael Tear (Producer); Lisa Thompson (Set Decorator); Erik Thomson (Actor); Sigrid Thornton (Actor); Lesley Vanderwalt APDG (Hair and Makeup Designer); Matt Villa ASE (Screen Editor); Jeffrey Walker (Director); Mandy Walker ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Stephen Wallace (Director); Damian Walshe-Howling (Actor); Tasma Walton (Actor); Rachel Ward AM (Actor); Elka Wardega (Prosthetic Makeup Artist); Hugo Weaving (Actor); Peter Weir (Director); Bob Weis (Producer); David Wenham (Actor); Jo Werner (Producer); David Williamson (Screenwriter); Margot Wilson APDG (Costume Designer); Rebel Wilson (Actor); Stephen Windon ACS ASC (Cinematographer); Ben Winspear (Actor); Dan Wyllie (Actor); Julia Zemiro (Actor).
Australian Directors’ Guild; Australian Writers’ Guild; Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance; Screen Producers Australia. With support from the Australian Cinematographers Society, Australian Production Design Guild, Australian Screen Editors, Australian Guild of Screen Composers, Australian Screen Sound Guild, Women in Film and Television, Visual Effects Society.
The rules that ensure Australian stories appear on Australian screens are archaic, leaving new players like Netflix and Stan without any obligation to create original local programs.
• The rules that ensure Australian stories appear on Australian screens must evolve so that new players like Netflix, YouTube, Stan, ISPs and Telcos have obligations to create original local programs.
• Major supporters of Australian stories – Screen Australia and the ABC – have had their funding axed year after year.
• Commercial TV broadcasters want to walk away from any requirement to create children’s content.
• Tax incentives that encourage production in Australia are no longer competitive.
Performers, producers, writers, directors and crew are joining forces to campaign for the future of the screen industry.
We have some the most talented workers in the world. We have unique, inspiring stories waiting to be told. We want to celebrate the diversity that exists in this country and see that diversity on our screens. Without commitment from Government we can’t bring Australian stories to our screens. That is the reality. It always has been.
Since the 1970s we’ve fought to Make it Australian. Now, it’s a fight for our future.
Will you join us?
Rules for minimum Australian content only apply to the commercial networks (free to air and pay TV).
• It is time to extend content regulation to the digital realm. Digital content providers that generate revenue from the Australian market (particularly, subscription video on demand services like Netflix and Stan) should contribute to telling Australian stories.
• Commercial networks want to abolish children’s content quotas. When UK children’s quotas were removed, 93% of children’s content production ended. If children’s quotas are removed we will never get them back. These quotas must be kept up and be extended to the digital realm. #savekidsTV
Australia is competing in the global market but we are held back by our tax system. Competitive tax offsets will increase production and support local jobs.
• It is time to update the 40% producer offset for Australian feature films by making it platform neutral – television and digital are now just as important as film.
• At 16.5%, the location offset for international productions is simply not competitive. It is time to put Australia on a level playing field and increase the location offset to 30%. The investment, training, and profile of international productions keeps our industry on the cutting edge.
Public broadcasters and Screen Australia play an important cultural role as a major source of funds for film, television and digital productions in this country.
• Since 2014, more than $250m has been cut from the ABC. Over this same period, the ABC’s commissioning budgets for adult drama and children’s content each dropped by 20%.
• Given their important cultural role, the ABC and SBS need to be properly funded.
• It is time to set minimum Australian content levels for the ABC and SBS and provide sufficient funds to meet these requirements.
• Restore Screen Australia funding to at least $100m per year (2012/13 levels) so that more projects can be green-lit.
Having started my professional career in 1960 in West Side Story at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre, I quickly came to realise I had a lot to learn. There was no educational facility like the Victorian College of the Arts, NIDA or WAAPA to study with; you had to rely on natural ability to get you through.
At that time, actors were not considered very productive members of the community and, therefore, had little say. The arts, generally, were not well supported, which was one good reason to belong to Actors’ Equity where, collectively, performers had a stronger voice and could be better protected with regard to basic rights and conditions, as well as helping to change prevailing attitudes towards them.
I was fortunate to meet director Wal Cherry and actor George Whaley, who were starting up an alternative small venture in South Melbourne called The Emerald Hill Theatre Company. I was given many opportunities to play substantial parts in their productions, which proved an incredible experience and training ground.
Many years of my career were taken up with working for Crawford Productions. The main show I was involved in was the police series, Division 4, and it was fairly primitive when it started. We didn’t have a caravan to change in – just the backs of cars − there was hardly any catering, and make-up and wardrobe were limited. More often than not, we wore our own clothes.
This became such a problem that when my one and only suit started to fall off me, my dear friend Pat Forster, who was in charge of wardrobe, took me to the boss to explain our problem. He looked me up and down and said: “You look fine.” I turned around and bent over, and my arse was hanging out of my pants. He said: “Well, that won’t do” and promised he would do something. The next week, they did a deal with a clothing shop and all the actors got new suits.
I went to thank the boss but thought better of it when I saw he also had a new suit, as did his nephew and the accountant, and pretty well everyone else in the building.
Pat Forster had a constant battle trying to clothe people, with hardly any budget. She wheeled and dealed to make sure everyone was dressed correctly, but the egos of some actors were another thing. One leading actor in a police series refused to believe that his waist measurement was 38 inches [about 96cm], which was what Pat had written down. She had to put up with constant harassment from this actor, who asserted that the tape measure was wrong. In desperation, Pat changed all the labels on his clothing and that did the trick.
I was the Equity deputy for Crawford Productions on Division 4. In 1968-69, there was a great deal of controversy about royalties. Actors in America and Britain were paid royalties for their work on television programs but not in Australia.
In conjunction with Equity’s Victorian secretary, Vic Arnold, I called a meeting of all the actors at Crawford’s to discuss this injustice. After much heated debate, it was decided, to the credit of our members, that we should campaign for more Australian content, and that the royalty question should be put on hold ‒ for the moment.
Out of all this, we eventually established the ‘TV Make it Australian’ committee to lobby the government and public servants. Our boss, Hector Crawford (the Silver Fox), turned a blind eye to what we were doing, which was using his phones, office equipment, secretaries and writers, having endless meetings with the Broadcasting Control Board and lobbying politicians.
Politicians … my God, have we got to be careful of them. I am sure most of them go into politics with the best of intentions but the reality of their world is that you have to toe the party line, and who knows when the line might change to suit their own ends or those of their friends. It seems difficult to believe that Australian politicians took so much convincing of the merits of Australian production.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, on reflection, those were wonderful years at Crawford Productions. I think we all owe so much to the founders of the company, Dorothy and Hector Crawford. They were the real pioneers of Australian television because, against all odds, they survived to prove that the public wanted to see locals on our screens and, because of their efforts, on the screens of the world.
Terence Donovan has been a proud member of Equity since 1960. This article was originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Equity Magazine to commemorate Equity’s 75th Anniversary.