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AU budget bites screen sector

Australia finds itself heading to Cannes with less of a story to tell after the Abbott government’s first budget slashes and burns its way through Screen Australia and other parts of the sector.

In brief, the government will impose cuts over four years which will amount (all in AU$) to $25 million of core funding disappearing from Screen Australia. A further $10 million will go by ending the fixed-term Australian Interactive Games Fund (administered by Screen Australia) one year early.

Government support for the ABC and SBS will be cut by 1% immediately, or $35 million (ABC) and $8 million (SBS). The Australia Network (run by the ABC to broadcast into other countries) will disappear, despite having signed long-term deals with Chinese and Indonesian broadcasters in the last 3 months.

Last week, Australia’s audit office recommended a 50% cut for Screen Australia and requiring it to focus on telling Australian stories “with an historical perspective”. This week, predictably, the smaller cut is greeted with some sighs of relief, although it appears that Screen Australia has suffered more than many other agencies. In the present financiaal year, Screen Australia has received AU$101 million.

Screen Producers Australia’s ED Matthew Deaner issued a statement which trod the line between fighting a rearguard action

Screen Producers Australia is concerned at what seems a disproportionate cut to Screen Australia, including to a key area of industry innovation (multiplatform/games).

Further, Mr Deaner said, the Government must ensure the ABC, SBS and Screen Australia have a workable timetable to enact required efficiencies without compromising their ability to develop, fund and commission Australian screen content.

and trying to keep a foot in the door to influence future decisions

Screen producers look forward to continuing our strong working relationship with the Government. We will continue to discuss the most appropriate levers of support, with particular emphasis on the producer offset, to further drive investment and innovation in our industry and we call on the Federal Government to reaffirm its ongoing commitment to the creation of quality film and television by a dynamic Australian independent production sector.

The full SPA statement is here.

Screen Australia’s Graeme Mason issued a diplomatic statement, saying, “Screen Australia like other Government organisations has been required to contribute to balancing the Federal Budget.” Mason went on to use the words “comprehensive review, efficiency” and “minimise the impact”.

Just ahead of the budget announcement Screen Australia had announced its intentions for its Enterprise scheme, to target funding to People (early-career writers and creative producers), Stories (ambitious and innovative large-scale development projects) and Growth (development of new models for financing, producing and distributing Australian screen content).

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