At a time when Australia’s screen industry is experiencing regulatory upheaval with big challenges for businesses on multiple fronts, Screen Producers Australia (SPA) yesterday noted that new measures to spur industry growth were not included in last night’s federal budget announcement which instead maintained an unsatisfactory approach to the status quo.
While budget figures appear to show a significant drop in funding Australia Screen from nearly $40 million in 2021-22 to just over $11 million by 2023-24, this figure reflects a return to the agency’s previous funding levels before the pandemic.
These budget figures reflect the termination of programs that were introduced, in part to facilitate the industry’s transition to the proposed new arrangements, the majority of which were never fully implemented, as well as temporary measures in the event of pandemic.
A review of the financial support needed to maintain and enhance Screen Australia’s objectives is urgently required, along with a comprehensive response to the policy parameters needed to create valuable and sustainable investment in the sector.
We note the $4.0 million to establish the Australian Content Reporting and Investment Framework to support the delivery of Australian content to Australian audiences, in relation to subscription video on demand (SVOD) services.
We previously welcomed the announcement of this program which supports the recognition that Australians should be able to see and hear their stories and culture on the services they are now using in record numbers.
However, SPA also reiterates its position in favor of increased levels of Australian content from SVOD services and believes that the 5% proposal in the Morrison government’s streaming services Work document will not deliver the growth or industry certainty needed to secure the future of the Australian screen industry.
We welcome other measures that are not sector-specific, including:
- the Technology Investment Boost will allow small businesses with annual revenue of less than $50 million to claim a 20% deduction for the cost of expenses and asset depreciation, up to $100,000 in expenses per year with qualifying expenses including items such as portable payment devices, cybersecurity systems and subscriptions to cloud-based services;
- $18.6 million over 3 years from 2022-23 to establish a pilot program to provide unique digital and data training and employment opportunities to Australians in the region;
We recognize that measures such as the second round of the Retention, Endurance and Neighborhood Enhancement Support Fund (SCREEN) to support independent cinemas impacted by COVID-19 and the extension of the temporary interruption for a new period of 6 months until June 30, 2022 were already announced by the Minister in December 2021.
Our conclusion is that unless a number of reforms are made to the policies that support our sector, this will ultimately lead to the decline of the sector.