Australian-made children’s television has all but disappeared from commercial free-to-air networks | Australian media

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Locally made children’s programs were all but abandoned by commercial television stations after the effective abolition of the quota by the Morrison government.

The main commercial network, Seven, aired just six and a half hours of children’s programming last year and none were made in Australia. The single program was a live action show from New Zealand called Mystic.

In 2021, the Nine network aired 47 hours of children’s television and Ten 40 hours, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s first report since the new standards came into force in January 2021.

Under the old standards, each network had to broadcast a minimum of 260 hours of children’s programming per year, half of which had to be the first release, and a minimum of 130 hours of Australian pre-school programming per year.

Professor Elizabeth Handsley, President of Children and Media Australia, said the results were not surprising. “It was obvious that the hours of quality children’s television would drop significantly when there was no longer a mandatory quota,” Handsley told Guardian Australia.

“The networks have never taken their obligations under this quota to heart. It’s also no surprise there’s now variation in coverage, as some were even less enthusiastic than others. But it’s still very disappointing, because in a landscape awash with all sorts of content from all sorts of sources, properly curated and easily accessible Australian programming is needed more than ever.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the numbers were startling. She urged the government to review Australian content rules as part of the Labor Party’s national cultural policy. The consultation is ongoing, with submissions due August 22.

“The findings of the Acma report are concerning and underscore the need to make high quality Australian children’s content available across a range of platforms,” ​​Rowland said.

“Our children need to grow up with the opportunity to enjoy and learn from locally produced programming. These findings reaffirm the need for careful consideration of screen policy settings. »

Nine has produced two animated children’s titles, Alice-Miranda and Space Nova, a live-action children’s title, The Gamers 2037, and a game show, Smashdown!: Search for the GOAT.

Ten has produced two live-action children’s dramas, Dive Club and The Bureau of Magical Things, and a lifestyle show, Totally Wild.

The free-to-air TV lobby has argued for years that kids’ quotas, which dictate networks must produce a certain number of hours of children’s and preschool programming, are irrelevant and hurt the bottom line. They wanted children’s television to be the responsibility of the national broadcaster.

At the start of the Covid outbreak in 2020, then Communications Minister Paul Fletcher suspended Australian content requirements for the year, which included adult drama, and in January 2021 brought back a watered-down program that included no obligations. on commercial broadcasters to air Australian children’s programming.

Foxtel was a major beneficiary of the Fletcher reforms as the requirement to allocate 10% of its drama channel revenue to local content was cut in half.

Streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney+, are not subject to Australian content regulations.

Screen Producers Australia warned two years ago that the removal of quotas would see more than half of Australian content disappear from free-to-air TV and that the cost of children’s content was particularly low in the context of the overall expenditure of the program (1.34%).

SPA chief executive Matthew Deaner said the market had “collapsed” by removing three of the four children’s content commissioners.

“Now the ABC is the only platform creating local content for young audiences,” Deaner told Guardian Australia. “This has had ripple effects across the industry for employment, skills development and training, but especially for children’s audiences who, while continuing to receive large amounts of international content on services of commercial broadcasters, no longer receive Australian stories on these platforms. .”

Fletcher, now shadow arts minister, defended his government’s policy, saying: “Evidence has shown that very few children watch children’s television on free-to-air commercial television networks.”

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