Digital channels favor overseas to homegrown

Aussie commercial webs are getting around a law forcing them to sked 55% local content by loading their digital channels, which are exempt from the rule, with cheap foreign shows.

A report by funding org Screen Australia found foreign content has grown by 154% in the three years since the advent of digital channels.

Geoff Brown, topper of the Screen Producers Assn. of Australia, said the news was disappointing, but not unexpected.

“We have to have some mechanism to ensure that we have Australian content over and above the minimum level currently required,” he said. “It needs to be there, and there in large slabs.”

The report, “Convergence 2011: Australian Content State of Play,” is part of Screen Australia’s submission to the government, which is reviewing the effects of multi-channel broadcasting.

“Audiences are fragmenting away from the main free-to-air channels to multi-channels that have no Australian content requirements, and this has resulted in a significant decline in the diet of Australian content,” Screen Australia’s chief operating officer, Fiona Cameron, said.These channels are finding a bigger aud, with TV viewers up 14% on average across the board, but they are not watching much homegrown fare.In 2008, Aussie fare accounted for 52% of content on the free webs, but that fell to 38% at the start of this year.

The report also found that more than 70% of the commercial webs’ drama expenditure relates to foreign drama.

SPAA is putting together its own findings to the government, which is expected to release its report on convergence in March.

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