Bluey Bluey

A year after Australia’s federal government abolished kids’ content quotas, the effects of the controversial decision are becoming apparent.

In a new industry report, public funding body Screen Australia has noted a steep decline in the production of content for children, both animated and live-action, over the past year. Below are some key figures (note that they don’t include streaming productions, which are classified separately):

  • Seven kids’ tv shows went into production in 2020/21, compared to fourteen in the previous year: a drop of 50%.
  • Only two of those were animated: Bluey (season three) and The Strange Chores (season two), both of which were financed by pubcaster ABC. That’s down from eight titles last year, and a five-year average of six.
  • The number of hours of kids’ animation produced declined year on year, from 55 to 13.
  • But the two shows that were produced were better funded than animation in previous years. They cost AUD$1.038 million (USD$740,000) per hour on average, up from AUD$694,000 last year.
  • No children’s co-productions — live-action or animated — began production in the past year. An average of one per year has started production over the past five years.

For decades, linear broadcasters in Australia had to meet a quota of 55% Australian content, alongside sub-quotas such as 260 hours of kids’ programming and 130 hours of preschool programming per year. In April 2020, the government suspended the sub-quotas (but not the 55% rule), arguing that Australian productions had been halted by Covid.

Animation producers were incensed, pointing out that they were still working through the pandemic. But broadcasters were delighted: they had long campaigned against the quotas, and continued to do so after the suspension. In October 2020, the government granted their wish and abolished the sub-quotas outright, effective from the start of 2021.

Trade body Screen Producers Australia said at the time that “thousands of jobs” would be lost and the production of Australian and children’s content would fall by “at least half.” The numbers are bearing out the latter prediction. Streamers, meanwhile, continue to escape quotas in the country.

While abolishing the quotas, the government also announced new money for producers, including USD$14 million for the nonprofit Australian Children’s Television Foundation and USD$21 million for Screen Australia. It committed further funding in its budget in May 2021.

Image at top: “Bluey”

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