Australia has a strong quota system for commercial free-to-air television broadcasting. It comprises an overall transmission quota of 55 per cent between the hours of 6 a.m. and midnight with subquotas for adult drama, documentary and children’s programs. There is a further quota for television commercials of 80 per cent. Compliance with the overall transmission quota is adequate with broadcasters often exceeding the quota. Exceeding the subquotas is less common, particularly with respect to children’s programs and documentaries.
Compliance is overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and compliance results are published annually.
The AUSFTA allows the application of the current quota arrangements to a secondary channel and in the event a network has a primary channel and more than nine secondary channels, to an additional secondary channel (often referred to as multichannels). It allows for the advertising quota to be applied to two secondary channels regardless of the number of secondary channels attached to the primary channel.
In respect of subscription television, there is an expenditure requirement of 10 per cent that applies only to predominantly drama channels. The AUSFTA allows for this requirement to be increased to 20 per cent and to be applied at the rate of 10 per cent to arts, children’s, documentary and educational channels.
All the above are subject to ratchet provisions referred to earlier – “use it or lose it”. In the event existing quotas are lowered, they cannot be later increased. In the event they are abolished, they cannot later be reintroduced.
What is important for the music sector in respect of television quotas and subsidy for the film and television sector is what is defined as an Australian program.
The definition of a complying commercial can be found at the ACMA website. Item 6 sets out those elements that are considered. The music – composition and performance – is optional providing sufficient other elements are Australian.
Australian Television Programs
The definition of a complying Australian television program can be found at ACMA website. As can be seen, music is not a defining element.
Australian film and television programs eligible for the Producer Offset
While the music can be considered it is not determinative. A summary of the eligibility requirements can be found at Appendix A below.
Official Coproduction Program
Certification as an official coproduction allows eligibility as an Australian program for the television quota and access to subsidy. Again, music is considered but it is optional. A summary of the program and the points system can be found at Appendix B.
Location and Post, Visual and Digital Effects (PVD) Offsets
These offsets are designed to attract offshore production to Australia. The offsets, like the Producer Offset, are made available after lodgement of tax returns. As the Location Offset aims to attract offshore productions to film in Australia, it is rare that the music industry will see any benefit. The PVD Offset looks at attracting offshore productions to Australia to undertake postproduction. The usual beneficiaries are those in visual effects. However, it is also common for Asian productions to mix in Australia and sometimes to record their music tracks. For an explanation of eligibility criteria, the definition of Qualifying Australian Production Expenditure and so on, see the Screen Australia website.
Screen Australia and the various state film funding agencies provide funds to develop film scripts and scripts for certain television program types. Eligibility criteria vary. Typically, in the absence of a project proceeding to production, development funds are not recoupable.
Screen Australia and the various state film funding agencies provide investment in feature films and certain television program types. Eligibility criteria vary. Most look for a market place attachment and funding from other sources. Market place attachments for television production are typically television network presales and for feature films can be presales, distribution guarantees, distribution advances and the like.
Matters taken into account as explained by Screen Australia.
The subject matter of the film
The place where the film was made
The nationalities and places of residence of the persons who took part in the making of the film
The details of the production expenditure incurred in respect of the film
Any other matters that Screen Australia considers relevant, including:
Source: Screen Australia.
These guidelines introduce the term ‘Australian Qualifying Points’ (AQP), which are the creative points allocated to the Australian side of a co-production. As a percentage of the total creative points the AQP must reach at least the minimum contribution level prescribed by the relevant co-production arrangement.
As noted above, the AQP must also be reasonably similar proportionally to the financial contribution that the Australian co-producer makes to the co-production – for example, if the Australian co-producer contributes half the finance, then half the points should be AQP. Subject to the minimum contribution allowed in the relevant co-production arrangement (as outlined in section 3.6 above), these guidelines, allow a 5 per cent margin (either way), so if the Australian co-producer’s financial contribution is 60 per cent, the AQP can be between 55 and 65 per cent.
Key creative roles are allocated a points value. If the person filling that role is an Australian national or permanent resident, a point is scored for that role. Please note that:
Different points tests apply for drama (the same test applies to both feature films and TV drama), documentaries and TV animation, reflecting the differences in the key creatives/technical personnel for these different types of project. Each of the tests aims to provide a degree of flexibility by allowing a certain number of discretionary points to be claimed.
Each test has a set number of roles that are always counted (top-line key creative roles). These roles attract “compulsory points”. In addition, the Australian co-producer may select roles in the discretionary point section to make up the level of points required for the film. However, where an Australian co-producer selects a role for a discretionary point, but Screen Australia does not consider the role to be a key creative role, Screen Australia reserves the right not to accept the allocated discretionary points.
In addition, each test includes a potential point for “Other creative role”. If an Australian co-producer wishes to claim this point, the Australian co-producer must convince Screen Australia that the role in question is particularly important for the film. For example, if the film is a martial arts feature, it may be possible to allocate a point to the fight choreographer; or for a musical, to the musical director or choreographer.