Freelance journalist Don Groves is a Deadline contributor, based in Sydney.
Australia’s free-to-air commercial broadcasters and the Special Broadcasting Service were among the few entertainment sector winners in the government’s budget delivered Tuesday night. Film producers hoping for a hike in federal funding and an increased tax credit scheme, however, were left empty-handed. The budget did confirm the $A12.8M grant to persuade the producers of 20th Century Fox’s The Wolverine, starring Hugh Jackman, to shoot at the Fox Studios in Sydney. That’s on top of the 16.5% refundable tax offset for the production of big‑budget international films. But, Screen Producers Association of Australia president Brian Rosen argues the offset must be raised to 30% if “Australia is to be competitive with other jurisdictions.”
In the face of government cutbacks aimed at delivering a $1.5B surplus in 2012-2013, after a $44B deficit this year, the government has been generous to commercial broadcasters. The budget allocates $143.2M over five years to ensure free‑to‑air commercial and national broadcasters vacate the digital dividend spectrum as soon as possible after the switch‑off of analog services on December 31, 2013. The 50% TV license fee rebate was also extended for six months until June 30, at a cost of $70M.
The government is providing an additional $158M over five years to the multicultural broadcaster SBS, including $63M to establish the first national, free‑to‑air indigenous TV service, staffed predominantly by indigenous people. Badly trailing the Liberal and National Party opposition in the opinion polls, the Labor government is desperately hoping the budget will help win back voters so it can avoid defeat in the next election due to be held before August 2013.