Networks using NZ titles on multichannels to meet local quotas

By David Knox on July 25, 2014 / Filed Under News, Top Stories 12

2014-07-25_0105New 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.

You can read the data in more detail here.

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.”

12 Comments »

  1. HardcorePrawn July 28, 2014 at 10:19 am -

    Haven’t Nine been doing similar for years though?
    I recall seeing this being reported a number of years ago, in the days prior to multi-channels, when Nine’s late night schedule was brimming with NZ shows.

    Not only do they buy up cheap NZ programming, but often their late night film slots are taken up with Australian cinematic flops that can be bought up cheaply too.

  2. Chuck128 July 27, 2014 at 3:17 am -

    I would have thought the cost of subtitling would have been prohibitive…but seriously, as NZ’s North and South Islands get closer to being our 7th and 8th states this is to be expected.

  3. themanfromoz July 26, 2014 at 8:50 pm -

    Doesn’t this simply sum up most Australian ‘watchdogs’?
    ACMA – no teeth to actually enforce any Australian content which we were assured was the reasoning behind licence fee decreases.
    ACCC – no teeth to actually do anything about petrol, gas, private health care or any other price increases that are simply consumer rip-offs.

  4. oceanographer July 26, 2014 at 3:29 pm -

    The whole point of the Australian Drama quota rule was to produce more Australian Drama. ACMA is still living up to its name as the toothless tiger laying down ineffective rules.

  5. jimbo k July 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm -

    although I did watch the NZ dramedy Nothing Trivial over on Gem when it was aired, I think that it is a shame that Nine are using these NZ shows as part of their quota. This is despite some of these shows (including Nothing Trivial) airing in December in non-ratings period and also in a late timeslot.

  6. middledog July 25, 2014 at 2:09 pm -

    Who even knew that they were airing this content? They certainly haven’t given it any publicity. Has anyone seen it? Is it better than BBT repeats?

  7. Sairy.James July 25, 2014 at 11:27 am -

    So Nine are getting all their Drama points by running things on their multi channels….. for what?….. so they can continuously have Big Bang repeats on their main channel?

  8. victor July 25, 2014 at 10:45 am -

    Both the Labor government and the Coalition have bowed to the might of the commercial free to airs and refused to close this loophole for local Australian content. New Zealand doesn’t have any local content quotas of its own and its local production is hugely subsidised by NZ ONAIR. Yet under the free trade agreement they argue equal treatment for NZ production sold as second run material into Australia. This outrageous anomaly could be easily rectified by ACMA if it raised the minimum licence fee payable for NZ product to the real production cost of a local Australian drama or documentary. Then we would have a level playing field. It has cost the Australian production industry ten of millions in lost production over the past decade or so and clearly it is getting far worse.

  9. Ronnie July 25, 2014 at 10:22 am -

    Nine’s lack of support for Australian produced drama cannot be ignored – these figures say it all and very loudly. Hugely disappointing for the audience and the industry. Further proof, if any were necessary, if Nine was not compelled to produce Australian drama to meet their quota obligations they simply wouldn’t.

  10. David Knox July 25, 2014 at 9:33 am -

    That’s actually in the story.

  11. Pertinax July 25, 2014 at 9:26 am -

    Under the trade agreement NZ shows and products are local.

  12. Pertinax July 25, 2014 at 9:01 am -

    The networks always meet their local content and drama quotas — they are licence conditions and they will lose their licences if they don’t.

    And as noted they are producing more local and buying more NZ content than the points because US content is rating less. Though they can average the points of a few years which contributes to APC and Offspring not continuing.

    The cut in licence fees was a taking into account of the fall in TV revenue as the internet takes an increasing share of advertising and viewers record and watch shows on line skipping ads. Without it Nine and Ten would have folded. It has nothing to do with any local content incentive.

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