Oz pay channels snub local quotas

Only Disney, Nick made gov't grade

SYDNEY — For the fourth year running, Australia’s feevee industry, which has accumulated losses of A$4.4 billion ($2.6 billion), has failed to meet government requirements that its drama-orientated channels spend 10% of their programming budgets on shows produced in Australia or New Zealand.

A new Australian Broadcasting Assn. report shows that the 17 eligible channels spent just 5% ($3.8 million of a total programming tab of $71.3 million) on local drama for the year ended June 1999, down from 8% ($4.9 million out of $60.5 million) the year before.

Only the Disney and Nickelodeon services actually spent 10%, while Granada/Foxtel’s Comedy Channel, WB/Disney/MGM’s Movie Network and Sony/U/Par/Fox’s Premium Movie Partnership spent up to 7%.

Brickbats went to XYZ Entertainment’s Arena, Pearson/Foxtel’s UKTV and Sony/U/Par’s TV1 for spending nothing at all, while Hallmark failed to even report to the ABA.

Loophole

But the feevee platforms of Rupert Murdoch’s Foxtel, Cable & Wireless’ Optus and UnitedGlobalCom’s Austar will go unpunished because, owing to legal snafus, the scheme was found to be legally unenforceable until July 1999. Feevee execs admit many had that in mind and began saving money to put into local dramas for the current year.

TV1 is also on the verge of commissioning a comedy, while Foxtel is partnering with pubcaster ABC, the U.K.’s Carlton and France 2 to produce a youth-oriented drama, “Head Start,” with “The Boy From Oz” and “Heartbreak High” producer Ben Gannon.

Foxtel’s Ross Crowley, like others, fumes that development costs are not counted in the quotas and notes that the high cost of producing drama is forcing him to cut down on making popular infotainment programs.

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