The Federal Government's support for Australian audiovisual industries through regulation and funding was applauded today by the Australian Film Commission at a reception at Parliament House following the AFC's Commission meeting in Canberra.
As US trade negotiators arrived in Canberra for discussions on a free trade agreement between Australia and the US, the Chair of the AFC, Maureen Barron, said it was essential that the current regulatory and funding regime remains in place.
"Australian film and television has played a central role over the past 30 years in establishing an international profile for our country and our culture. It is an industry of national importance and has been one of the great ambassadors for this country around the world. But in the absence of regulation and subsidy, Australia's industry, its ability to continue to produce and disseminate Australian film and television, and the ability of Australian audiences to have access to minimum levels of Australian content would be severely affected," Ms Barron said.
"Australia's regulatory measures in the film and television industries are transparent, modest, targeted, and do not exclude foreign material. Australia still remains open to international trade, as demonstrated by the local audiovisual industry's acknowledged place in the global economy and the amount of non-Australian, especially US, material already on our screens. The AFC upholds Australia's right to maintain and strengthen measures which support our national culture."
Ms Barron was joined at the reception by Australian actors Rebecca Gibney (Halifax fp, Kangaroo Palace) Gary Sweet (Police Rescue, Stingers), Marcus Graham (Good Guys Bad Guys and the recent production of The Blue Room with Sigrid Thornton) and Matthew Newton (Changi, Looking for Alibrandi); and actor/filmmaker Rachel Ward (On The Beach, director of The Big House and the AFC-funded feature currently in production Martha's New Coat).
Ms Barron highlighted three primary concerns for the film and television industry and the AFC - funding, the current round of WTO negotiations and bi-lateral trade negotiations, and Australian content regulation for subscription television.
"The increased funding allocation to both the AFC and the Film Finance Corporation Australia for this and the next financial year, announced by the Government in September 2001, was welcomed by the AFC and by the industry. However, it is critical that Government and industry continue to monitor the funding available for medium budget Australian films in particular. Contraction in this area of the industry will inhibit Australia's ability to contribute to Australian culture and to its standing on the international stage."
"This is one of the reasons why the industry also eagerly awaits the Government's response to the review of the Film Licenced Investment Companies scheme."
Also of central concern to the AFC is the current review by the Australian Broadcasting Authority of Australian content on subscription television.
"As the Australian subscription television audience continues to grow, it is vital that pay TV joins other broadcasters in screening quality Australian programs. The AFC is calling for a modest increase to local content requirements for pay TV drama and the introduction of such regulation to documentary channels, as applies in most developed countries."
Ms Barron attended the AFC Commission meeting with AFC Chief Executive Kim Dalton and a number of her fellow Commissioners:
- Paul Hamra, Deputy Chair, communications consultant
- Rolf de Heer, one of Australia's leading filmmakers, internationally known for films such as Bad Boy Bubby, Dance Me To My Song and the recently released The Tracker and Alexandra's Project.
- Helen Leake, film producer whose credits include Heaven's Burning starring Russell Crowe and the recently released Black and White starring Robert Carlyle, Charles Dance, Kerry Fox and Colin Friels
- Bruce Moir, independent documentary filmmaker and media consultant
- Tony Zeccola, Managing Director of Palace Films, one of Australia's leading distributors and exhibitors.
The Australian Film Commission is the Federal Government's development agency for the film, television and interactive media industry.
See Also Maureen Barron's Speech