“We can bring back sub-content quotas… removing the quotas hasn’t worked”

“We can bring back sub-content quotas… removing the quotas hasn’t worked”

The dropping of Drama and Children’s sub-quotas in 2020 under the Morrison Government was a mistake according to South Australian Senator Perin Davey, and Deputy Leader of the Nationals.

In 2020 when COVID hit production the government overhauled content quota points which has seen dramatic reductions in Children’s TV on commercial Free to Air networks.

Speaking at the Australian Children’s Content Summit today in Coffs Harbour, Senator Davey said, “Talk about taking advantage of a bad situation. COVID (with) the Free to Air push all culminated together. I mean, governments don’t always get it right. On removing the sub-content quotas I think we definitely got wrong.”

Senator Davey said dropping of sub-quotas was sold to Senators as necessary to get the industry through COVID, but with Children’s content still going to be commissioned and with a Review to take place later. But she does not believe it worked as intended.

“Free to Air didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. They didn’t keep commissioning. We’re not seeing any new commissioning going from the Free to Air channels (in Children’s TV). I think we need to have that review that was built into the regulations. Because this is one egg that we can actually unscramble. We can bring back sub-content quotas, drama quotas so that we can give industry some certainty. Because it hasn’t worked. Removing the quotas hasn’t worked in the way it was intended or in the way it was sold to us. So we do need to have that review,” she said.

Senator Davey also did not agree that quotas on Streaming platforms would be bad for Free to Air networks, who have argued against increased competition and rising costs.

“Isn’t competition good? Don’t we want competition? Isn’t this the problem we’ve got with Woolworths and Coles,” she asked.

“Then they say, ‘We don’t have enough staff so we can’t do it.’ I’m like ‘Train them!’ I’ve got two kids! You can have them!’

“I just think their arguments are a bit hollow and I really wish that they would get on board and see that there is opportunity in this too. They should be looking at this as a way to co-produce and co-invest so that they get better content and can actually reduce their costs.”

Senator Davey also rejected suggestions that Streaming platforms were making sufficient content and therefore quotas were not necessary.

“My view is, of course, they’re meeting the target because they’ve got this big stick (which means) ‘If you don’t meet the target, will regulate.’ As soon as you say, “We’re not going to regulate, we’re taking away the stick,’ I can imagine that they will do exactly what the Free to Airs did when we took the sub content quotas off them, and go ‘Everything’s all good. They’ve forgotten about us and off we go. Let’s get more Degrassi Junior High on telly instead of Heartbreak High.‘”

Updated: Screen Producer Australia CEO Matthew Deaner stated, “With two years of data showing a clear downward trend, the Australian Government needs to step in and conduct an urgent review of the Australian Content and Children’s Television Standards (ACCTS) and do something about the failure to ensure Australian children can freely and easily access stories that reflect their own culture and lives.

“It’s abundantly clear that commercial broadcasters have all but abandoned investing in new programs for Australian children. There are compelling social equity reasons for Australian families and children to have access to content that reflects shared experiences and life in Australia.”