Beloved soap Neighbours is among the Aussie TV shows that could be under threat amid government changes to local content quotas.
Beloved soap Neighbours is among the Aussie TV shows that could be under threat amid government changes to local content quotas.

Long-running Aussie series facing the axe

The residents of Ramsay Street could be under threat thanks to Federal Government changes to local content quotas off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company behind Neighbours have warned it may be compromised, after 35 years on Aussie screens.

"I think in the free-to-air environment Neighbours could most certainly be at risk if the quotas (for Australian content) were to change," Fremantle Media chief executive Chris Oliver-Taylor told the ABC.

The beloved soap was one of many shows forced to halt production when coronavirus first struck Australia, sending the sector into a crisis and prompting commercial broadcasters to call for a hail Mary.

In response, the Federal Government suspended quotas that required certain amounts of locally-produced drama, children's shows and documentaries be aired, with no certainty the sub-quotas on dramas and children's shows will be brought back.

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Neighbours cast members on the show’s 35th anniversary.
Neighbours cast members on the show’s 35th anniversary.

While current quota rules state 55 per cent of content shown on commercial networks must be Australian, local production companies have warned if the sub-quota pause continues, it could mark the end of a number of iconic drama and children's series.

"Literally thousands of those businesses go under if the Government doesn't make it really clear now that the current suspension of the quota system won't go beyond the end of the financial year," Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell told the ABC.

Director and executive producer of award-winning children's animation studio Blue Rocket Productions, David Gurney, warned the publication that the lack of sub-quotas could be "catastrophic".

"We can't say what's coming up next year or the year after - it really all is hanging in the balance until this is sorted out," he said.

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"You can't just click your fingers and have a TV show - it takes years of production and financing," Mr Gurney explained, adding there could be 30 families linked to any one of Blue Rocket's productions.

"All those people are likely to lose their jobs if there are no quotas and there's no obligation for the broadcasters or the streaming services to meet any Australian quota."

The film and television production and distribution sector contributed $5.8 billion to the economy, according to a 2016 report by Screen Australia, and about 46,000 full-time jobs.

Mr Oliver-Taylor and Suzanne Ryan, founder of SLR Productions, both argued streaming behemoths like Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus should commission Australian content.

"We need strong funding, we need strong tax incentives and we certainly need quotas," Ms Ryan said.

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The Federal Government’s pause on sub-quotas could be “catastrophic”. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage
The Federal Government’s pause on sub-quotas could be “catastrophic”. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gary Ramage

"If there's no incentive financially for those (Australian) networks to commission - to make content reasonably cheaper - than those networks will look to acquire content from overseas at a cheaper price point," Mr Oliver-Taylor said.

Federal Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher is set to make a decision on restoring quotas later this year. A spokeswoman for the Minister told the publication the Government has already put $50 million towards helping local film and television producers recommence filming productions halted due to the challenges in accessing insurance coverage for COVID-19.

Originally published as Long-running Aussie series facing the axe


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