Oz expands showbiz rebate

Coin to flow within two weeks

SYDNEY — The government has finally caved in to a three-year industry campaign and extended the 12.5% tax rebate given to feature films to TV series that spend at least A$15 million ($11.2 million) in Oz.

The measure was introduced in the federal budget presented to parliament Tuesday night, which also had good news for the Australian Broadcasting Corp. but no help for the struggling film sector.

Execs estimate Australia has lost several hundred million dollars worth of TV production since TV series were excluded when the incentive was introduced in 2001.

The rebate for series will kick in as soon as legislation is passed by parliament, probably in the next two weeks, a spokesman for Arts Minister Rod Kemp said. But it won’t apply to bundled telepics, which in aggregate spend the same amount, despite the industry’s urgings.

“We applaud the government for extending the rebate and hope that producers of TV series will now consider coming to Australia,” said Trisha Rothkrans, chief exec of Ausfilm, the government/industry body that markets Oz as a production destination.

Pubcaster ABC was given an extra $3.1 million per year to cover the increased cost of acquiring TV programs, and about $13.5 million annually to continue delivering new programs and services in regional areas.

The budget did not allocate more funds for the Film Finance Corp. or the Australian Film Commission. But execs are hopeful the government will offer measures to boost the film industry before the national elections at the end of this year.

“We still have a bid in to the government for extra money,” said FFC chief exec Brian Rosen.

The budget confirmed the government’s intention to merge the regulatory Australian Broadcasting Authority with the Australian Communications Authority. The resulting entity, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, will take effect from July 2005.

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