The number of TV shows produced for Australian children has halved since the Morrison government removed quotas for commercial broadcasters, according to Screen Australia’s annual drama report.
The number of children’s titles produced in Australia increased from 14 in 2019-20 to seven in 2020-21, and six of them – including Bluey Series 3 – were funded by ABC.
In addition to Bluey, the ABC produced The Strange Chores Series 2 and the live-action titles Born to Spy, Hardball Series 2, Itch Series 2, and MaveriX.
The three free-to-air broadcasters and all streaming services combined only funded one children’s show, Dive Club, which was a co-production between Network 10 and Netflix to be broadcast on free-to-air television first.
In August last year, Guardian Australia reported that the government’s plan for a “simplified” quota system for Australian drama and children’s television would cause more than half of that content to disappear from free television.
Overall, the report showed an increase in the level of spending on drama production to a record $ 1.9 billion, although the vast majority of that spending came from foreign projects: $ 874 million was spent on Australian projects and $ 1.04 billion on international projects, classified as those shot or post-produced in Australia.
Screen Australia chief executive Graeme Mason said production sector disruptions due to Covid-19 had been difficult but produced unexpected results – such as more foreign productions moving to Australia.
âIt has obviously been a huge year for the industry,â he said. “I think this is due to a great combination of the resilience and capabilities of our local sector in all respects.”
Mason said that while the industry has undoubtedly lost jobs due to the drop in production, the children did not suffer because they “mostly watch television on ABC, ABC Me, or online.”
âWe are well aware and we are looking at the impact on child producers,â Mason said. âBut we balance that out by saying that the impact on children themselves is not the same as this impact on production companies.
“To be fair, we currently have a few shows in production, which would be in next year’s report, with Channel 10.”
Two other kids ‘shows, Stan’s Alice Miranda – A Royal Christmas Ball and Netflix’s Surviving Summer, were not included in the Kids’ TV category because they had their first showing on a streaming service rather than free-to-air. .
Screen Producers Australia (SPA) says last year’s increase in spending was largely driven by foreign productions ($ 1.04 billion versus $ 413 million before the pandemic) working in Australia.
“While we applaud the strong overall result, the $ 874 million in spending on Australian content was actually only a modest increase from pre-pandemic levels ($ 797 million 2018/19),” SPA President Matt Deaner said.
âThis is concerning given that this year’s figure would include a significant number of projects that were delayed in 2019-2020 and then started in 2020-21. “
Australian producers argued that it is necessary to have a regulatory structure because children are deprived of Australian content and the industry has lost a lot of work in children’s television.
Nine, Ten and Seven have been lobbying the government for years to drop quotas that required them to broadcast 260 hours of children’s programming and 130 hours of preschool programming.
The government gave them a break under the guise of Covid in April 2020 when Communications Minister Paul Fletcher announced the regulations would be suspended for 2020, a decision made permanent in September.
Broadcasters argued that quotas for commercial broadcasters should be relaxed to take into account the competitive new media environment, which included streaming services like Netflix and platforms like YouTube.
The Screen Australia report also provides insight into the growth of Australian productions on streaming services. Between 2016 and 2021, 29 Australian drama titles were produced for their first broadcast on streaming platforms, generating 115 hours of Australian content.
The government has suggested they spend 5% of their local income on Australian productions, but the struggling movie industry wants them to spend 20% of their local income on new Australian children’s dramas, documentaries and content, according to to France and Canada.
Of the Australian streaming productions, 18 were shown on Stan, which is owned by Nine Entertainment, and five on Netflix, with the remainder being shown on Amazon, Acorn TV and Presto.
Five years ago the average budget for a title was $ 800,000, but last year it grew to $ 13.5 million.
The amount spent on Australian adult drama also declined, from $ 326 million in 2018-19 to $ 189 million in 2019-20.
Commercial free-to-air broadcasters are still required to ensure that 55% of all content they broadcast is Australian.