News & Commentary, Screen, TV

Australia’s commercial networks lobby to ditch children’s TV quota

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The bosses of Australia’s commercial broadcasters have joined together to call on government to scrap content quotas for children’s TV.

Speaking to a parliamentary inquiry in Sydney last week, the heads of Seven, Nine and Ten said their children’s programming was watched by very low audiences and was a waste of money when children are turning away from traditional broadcast TV.

The inquiry was established to look into the health of the Australian screen sector, but there’s a much bigger inquiry coming from ACMA (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) on the same subject later this year.

Various issues have been raised over the course of the inquiry, but all three commercial networks say the children’s content quota — 260 hours of children’s content and 130 hours of content for pre-schoolers — is outdated.

They all noted that the viewing habits of children have changed dramatically in the last decade.

Nine’s Hugh Marks said: “They no longer feel obliged to watch children’s television or linear television at set time zones. It’s just nonsense. They certainly don’t feel compelled to watch Australian children’s drama when there is so much competition in the market for that viewing.

“So the reality is that viewing has changed and we are wasting our money, your money, taxpayers money making shows for an audience that we can’t reach. These valuable funds must be employed elsewhere for the benefit of the whole industry.”

Seven’s Tim Worner said the children’s content broadcast on Seven reached very low average audiences, with some shows attracting as few as 6000 viewers.

But several screen industry bodies, including the Australian Writers Guild, Screen Producers Australia, and the Australian Directors Guild, have come out in support of children’s content quotas. They say that a decision to remove the quotas would pose a significant threat to both Australian culture and jobs.

Paul Murphy, CEO of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance said: “When the UK Government took away quotas on their broadcasters in 2003, it led to a 93 per cent fall in spend on children’s content by those broadcasters. The UK Government admitted it made a mistake and brought back children’s quotas. A recent Australian study by PwC concluded that the removal of content requirements in Australia would result in a 100 per cent reduction in children’s drama and other children’s content production. Under no circumstances can we take the risk of removing existing children’s content quotas unless a water tight alternative is in place.”

Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia added: “What is lost in the current focus on the broadcaster’s position, is the success of the Australian children’s television both here and abroad. Children’s television is one of the most lucrative international exports in the entire industry, contributing to a significant portion of $100 million in annualised international content revenue; its reach extends to over 150 countries across film, TV, digital, animation, gaming, live performance and merchandising. Local broadcasters are the trigger for this broader economic activity. We can’t lose sight of the bigger picture.”

2 responses to “Australia’s commercial networks lobby to ditch children’s TV quota

  1. The big problem is of course. You ditch the quota for a product then the producers end up ditching the product altogether. That’s what the commercial networks want to do with children’s television. Mr Deaner is correct however. Australia makes some of the best children’s television in the world. It may not be recognised as such here but is is elsewhere in the world. Australia simply can’t afford to lose such a valuable industry.

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