Monday, 13 February 2017

The House of Reps Inquiry into the Film Industry - An echo from long ago

Editor's Note: The last time there was a serious injury into the Australian film industry it was conducted by a bunch of anonymous bureaucrats from the Department of Communications etc of the day. Out of it came a bit of bureaucratic restructuring, the creation of Screen Australia and some rejigging of the tax breaks for investors in the sector.

These paras are extracted from a submission by Bruce Hodsdon and Geoff Gardner to set the scene and although the numbers are now a decade out of date the sentiments are still interesting in the context of  the moment we are now at where a bunch of Federal Parliamentarians have begun plodding their way through the thicket of issues that the film industry represents..

For several decades successive Australian Governments have supported the production of films. Federal Government funding for film and film-related institutions has increased exponentially from $15m in 1980/81 to over $160 million in the current year (2006). If funding had been maintained at 1980/81 real dollar levels in the current year expenditure would be less than $50 million per annum. The increase has thus been extremely large and there is probably no cultural sector which has experienced such a pronounced increase. Federal (and state) governments have seen this support as a desirable element of the nation’s cultural policies and it seems it is now accepted 
  • that there must be an Australian film industry;
  • that industry should operate at sufficient level of activity to provide reasonable throughput for the various pieces of production infrastructure and service provision put in place by or with the support of both government and private investors; and
  • the industry should provide certain levels of employment for technicians and artistic personnel many of whom have been expensively trained by stand alone government funded training institutions.
Investment and funding, at all levels of government, has significantly increased over the last three decades. However governments often express only a very general or vague desire for our national identity to be put on the screen or for the nation’s stories to be told by Australians themselves and for these stories to be seen by the nation’s citizens. Notwithstanding, support comes at all points – for training, for development, for production, for distribution, for exhibition, for overseas sales and marketing and for preservation. 

The result of this activity has been significant government and private investment in the film industry. It is universally acknowledged that the industry can only exist providing that Government support continues. The debate is often clouded however by those who actually make films or have some role in the industry who seek for their work to be supported with ever-increasing subsidies,. This is sought no matter how few Australians actually see the industry’s products, and no matter how large the financial losses and the tax expenditures that accompany them.

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