Suspension of screen content obligations an unnecessary hit on sector

Jakob Owens / UnsplashAPRA AMCOS is deeply concerned at the move by the Australian Government to remove drama, children’s and documentary content obligations for free-to-air and subscription television for the remainder of the year.

“There are scores of screen productions ready for release and in the final stages of post-production that can be scheduled over the remainder of the year,” said Dean Ormston, CEO APRA AMCOS. “The move to water down content obligations will incentivise television broadcasters and subscription services to reduce the programming of new productions to the detriment of the local industry, including our screen composer members.”

APRA AMCOS supports the position of Screen Producers Australia and the Australian Guild of Screen Composers for a temporary arrangement of deferring content obligations which would provide broadcasters relief in the coming year.

This would allow broadcasters flexibility to average out obligations without reducing the quantity of content commissioned and would ensure demand returns to the sector at levels sufficient to get the sector back on its feet and able to create productions and revive employment across the sector.

“Screen composers are in a unique situation where a significant amount of income is derived from royalty payments made following broadcast of content,” said Antony Partos, President Australian Guild of Screen Composers. “Composers are already hit hard by the suspension of production with no likelihood of income for at least 6 months after production commences in many cases.”

“There is now the prospect of a downturn in royalties due to a cessation of new Australian content being broadcast. This will have the potential of creating a double negative impact on our already struggling industry.”

As well as backing calls for a $650 million industry package to help the music industry and live performance sector bounce-back from the COVID-19 crisis, APRA AMCOS also supports screen industry calls for Government to implement a $1 billion screen content fund to boost local tax offset arrangements and provide direct support through Screen Australia.

“Providing targeted relief for one part of the sector means you must support the broader screen production sector that creates the amazing drama, children’s television and factual programs of the local industry,” said Ormston. “Whether it’s screen composers or others throughout the music industry, most professionals in our industry work on a contractual basis and many may not be eligible for much of the stimulus announced by the Australian Government.”

APRA AMCOS will continue to consult closely with its screen industry colleagues over the coming days and weeks to respond to the options paper released by the Australian Government to look at how best to support Australian stories on our screens in a modern, multi-platform environment.

“The screen industry, like the music industry, is going through dramatic change with a global renaissance in production and consumption of content greater than ever before,” said Ormston. “The challenges that come from screen’s global wave of change are being felt acutely by markets of our size and scope. The demands of this new economy are fast creating new expectations to produce more work for less money and at a much faster rate.

“APRA AMCOS will continue to push for a better appreciation of our local screen composers by insisting local content quotas are retained and strengthened by content or expenditure obligation of screening platforms. Relevant government investments or offsets in screen productions must include a specific incentive to use Australian composers.”

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Image: Jakob OwensUnsplash