New Zealand dramas such as Underbelly NZ (pictured), Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Love Birds & The Blue Rose helped Nine to fulfill their Australian Drama quotas last year, according to the media watchdog.
In 2013 51% of the first release Australian drama on the Nine Network was from New Zealand, compared with 7% for Seven Network and 4% for Network TEN.
Nine played almost all its NZ dramas on its multichannels GO! and GEM which can now count first-run drama towards its overall content quotas for the first time.
Under the Australia-NZ Economic Trade Agreement, NZ content be claimed as “local content” despite the move being criticised by unions some years ago.
The two recent changes mean networks can now meet their quotas by playing NZ content on multichannels, instead of the previous requirement of all-Australian drama on their primary channels.
Seven had the highest proportion of NZ documentaries at around 30%, mostly on its primary channel, with Nine and TEN both at 0%.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority also found that Children’s television has been allocated to multichannels, following the government allowing flexibility of quotas across multichannels.
Seven provided the vast majority of its children’s programming on 7TWO and 7mate, while Nine’s entire children’s slate was on GO! while TEN had transitioned its children’s programming to ELEVEN by the end of the year.
But the change also enabled Neighbours to be added back into TEN’s Drama quota after three years in the wilderness, which had long been a frustration to the network.
More positively ACMA also found that all licensees met their main channel (55 per cent) and multi-channel (730 hours) transmission quotas for Australian content.
Seven Network providing an average of 69% local programming, Nine Network an average of 65% and Network TEN an average of 59%.
With a minimum of 250* Drama points required, Seven averaged 350, TEN 344 and Nine 332 points (* incl. multichannels & NZ content).
The government still does not require multichannels to produce any first-run Australian content despite generous government cuts to license fees.
UPDATED: “This is clearly a disturbing trend,” Screen Producers Australia Executive Director, Matthew Deaner said.
“Our fears have been realised. The industry was reassured by the Gillard Government that the licence fee reductions to the commercial free-to-air television licensees would better protect Australia content and we can now see that this isn’t true. This is particularly so for our most vulnerable content protected by the drama, documentary and children’s sub-quotas.
“The effect of the reforms is to shift first release Australian content away from the high visibility primary channel to channels with much lower audiences. With cheap imported New Zealand drama shelved on multi-channels accounting for 51 per cent of the Nine Network’s drama points and 60 per cent of their drama broadcast hours, it is clear that the increased flexibility has become a cynical exercise that is shortchanging Australian viewers.
“This is not in the spirit of the Australian Content Standard and, when considered alongside more attractive production incentives that were recently introduced in New Zealand, there needs government review and reform.
“We want the Government to work with the industry to explore safeguards under which the viewing public do not continue to see more screen stories about their cousins from the land of the long white cloud than their own stories from our great southern land.”