Pilots for new Netflix series could be shot in Australia if the recommendations of a parliamentary inquiry into the sustainability of the film and television industry are adopted.
The committee's Report on the inquiry into the Australian film and television industry was tabled on Thursday, with a raft of recommendations that, if adopted, would significantly overhaul the current funding, quota and Australian and children's content framework of the industry.
The changes would also likely result in a significant increase in so-called "footloose" production of foreign film, television and streaming content in Australia.
Among the key recommendations of the committee, chaired by Liberal backbencher Luke Howarth, were the following:
- A uniform subsidy for film, television and streaming content, set at 30 per cent of expenditure. That would mean a boost for TV from the present 20 per cent and a cut for film from 40 per cent
- An increase in the subsidy for foreign productions from 16.5 per cent to 30 per cent, and a lowering of the budget threshold from $15 million to $5 million, to encourage mid-budget films and TV and streaming series to Australia
- Allowing productions to access both the producer offset and the post-production (PDV) offset, rather than being limited to one or the other
- A levy of 10 per cent of revenue on the SVOD players (Stan, Netflix, Amazon et al) to be spent on Australian content
- A stipulated minimum hours of children's content for the ABC, to be enshrined in its charter, and a special fund to be established for children's content, to be paid for by the broadcasters, including SVOD players
- A 50 per cent minimum of Australian content on SBS (which, like the ABC and unlike commercial channels, currently has no Australian content requirement)
- New Zealand content that has already been screened in New Zealand to no longer count towards Australian content quotas
- The removal of the requirement for the actors union, Equity, to be consulted by producers wishing to bring foreign actors into the country for a production.
- The restoration of funding for digital games.
The industry response to the recommendations has so far been generally positive.
Lobby group Screen Producers Australia said it "sets out an updated policy framework which will empower Australian production businesses to compete internationally for ideas, finance and talent". It especially praised the "long-overdue, sensible and sober reform" of the rules around foreign actors, a position certain to put it at odds with its occasional foe and recent ally Equity, the actors union.
SPA did, however, fear the consequences of dropping support for film from 40 to 30 per cent. "To put things simply, this proposal will mean great Australian feature films will struggle to get made," said CEO Matthew Deaner.
Jenny Buckland, CEO of the Australian Children's Television Foundation, hailed the report as "an incredibly valuable contribution" to the ongoing discussion about how best to promote, encourage and safeguard the production of Australian screen content.
Though it advocates a children's content fund, the report did not offer much insight into how that might work, and what broadcasters' obligations might be. But Ms Buckland did not see that as a negative.
"I think it says to everyone, 'Look, we are going to change things up but no one's going to be let off the hook'," she said.
"The priority is going to be quality Australian children's content that meets all the cultural and development needs of the audience, not just commercial criteria. So it's saying, 'Come to the table with ideas on how this would work best for you'."
Ausfilm, which is charged with attracting foreign production to Australia, was understandably supportive of the recommended changes to the location offset, which it claimed would result in "up to another $200 million per annum in additional production value.
"That will be a huge boost to the Australian film industry and help secure many more jobs, not just in our sector but also in a wide range of sectors that provide products and services to the Australian industry," said Ausfilm CEO Debra Richards.
Despite the general support for the report - which took more than 150 submissions from individuals, broadcasters, companies and industry groups - there is no guarantee the government will act upon any of it.
Four inquiries into the industry have been announced in the past year, with the one being conducted by the department of communication and the arts considered the most likely to shape (or reflect) government thinking.