SYDNEY– Australia’s domestic film and TV biz fared poorly in the annual federal budget handed down Tuesday, despite an overall $A2.2 billion ($1.4 billion) surplus fuelled by booming business taxes.
Key film and TV funder, the government’s Film Finance Corporation, had its triennial funding renewed until 2006/07. But the government froze the FFC’s allocation at $32 million a year for three years, plus an extra $7 million for TV drama previously announced.
Pubcaster the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will be forced to cut programs and services across its TV, radio and online divisions after the government rejected its request for an extra $161 million a year to fund a new digital TV multichannel, 180 extra hours of Aussie comedy and drama and boost radio transmission in remote regions.
The government adjusted the ABC’s funding for inflation, giving it approximately $460 million a year. Projected revenues from sales and licensing will generate a further $70 million.
But there was good news for the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, alma mater of Catherine Martin, Cate Blanchett and Baz Luhrmann, it received $3 million to run its new theater.
And film development org. the Australian Film Commission was expanded to incorporate the national screen archive Screensound and given a budget of $26 million a year.
New FFC CEO, Brian Rosen, who was appointed after the funding submission was complete, took an upbeat view of the government’s decision.
“Given this year’s tight budget we are very pleased the government has acknowledged the importance and value of Australian screen production by maintaining the FFC’s triennial funding,” he said.
ABC managing director Russell Balding was not so happy. “This outcome is disappointing in light of the ABC’s recent outstanding efforts in the coverage of the war in Iraq and the bushfires. It is precisely in times of national struggle and crisis that the nation needs a properly funded public broadcaster.”
The pubcaster has 48 regional radio stations, a national TV network, four national radio networks, a Web site, 13 international news bureaux, various digital TV and radio test entities and international radio signal Radio Australia. Fledgling digital TV services ABC Kids and FLY TV will likely be the first casualties.