Australian government to conduct incentive review

Review will examine producer offset and other credits

SYDNEY -- The Australian government will conduct a statutory review of its incentives, funding arrangements and other assistance to the independent production sector, Arts minister Peter Garrett announced Monday. 

“This review will examine the independent screen production sector’s viability and the extent to which screen practitioners are benefiting from Government support and taking advantage of other investments,” Garrett said.

The review will also look at how the government support measures, such as the three-year-old Australian Screen Production Incentive, which includes the producer offset and the post-digital and visual effects offset, and direct funding, are assisting the sector achieve the government’s stated cultural objectives, as well as how much private investment the APSI is attracting. 

It comes as the Australian film industry goes “from strength to strength,” Garrett said. 

“In 2008–09 annual production activity was worth AUS$688 million ($620 million), significantly above the five-year average of $518 million. Last year also saw the highest number of Australian films released in the boxoffice in 25 years, with local boxoffice takings of $50 million. It is timely then for this important review to take place so we can ensure the industry continues to prosper,” Garrett said.

Other issues canvassed under the review’s terms of reference are the timing of incentive payments; any impact the Producer Offset has had on license fee negotiations with broadcasters and the impact of the Location and PDV Offsets on the independent production sector. 

The review will also consider the impact on the industry of the Government’s increased funding of national broadcasters the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Special Broadcasting Service announced last year; the effect of Australia’s free trade agreements and their impact on levels of Australian content, including drama, documentaries and children’s programming, on free-to-air and subscription television services and the findings of a government tax review relating to levels of production by the Australian independent production sector compared to levels of production by Australian television broadcasters.

However the terms of reference made no mention of the government’s recently announced $225 million license fee rebate to be given to commercial broadcasters and the impact that would have on levels of local production. Communications minister Stephen Conroy has previously said the rebates are designed to assist the commercial broadcasters in maintaining local content production. 

The government has asked for public submissions by April 29 and says it will finalize the review by the end of the year.
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