Cate Blanchett joins stars signing open letter that calls on Australia to protect screen industry

Gillian Armstrong, Peter Weir, Rose Byrne and Richard Roxburgh among 215 people who have put names to appeal

Cate Blanchett, Gillian Armstrong, Peter Weir, Rose Byrne, Phillip Noyce and Richard Roxburgh are among 215 Australians working in film and television who have signed an open letter calling on the government to protect the country’s screen industry.

Fearing another cuts-heavy federal budget for Australian screen content and its creators, the letter is the latest move from the Make it Australian campaign: an alliance of the Australian Directors’ Guild, the Australian Writers’ Guild, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and Screen Producers Australia, which have been lobbying the arts minister, Mitch Fifield, since September.

In December the alliance made a submission to the Australian and children’s screen content review, launched by Fifield to investigate government support and regulations in the screen industry, which have not been reviewed in 15 years. The government has not yet released its report based on that review’s findings.

Published on Tuesday, the open letter was also signed by Ben Elton, Yael Stone, Fred Schepisi, Kate Mulvany, David Williamson and Deborah Mailman. It was timed to grab Canberra’s attention in the final parliamentary sitting week before the government reconvenes to announce its budget in May.

The letter calls on the government to maintain Australian content rules for free-to-air TV and extend them to new media including Netflix, Amazon, telcos and internet service providers; to increase tax incentives that could lure more international productions to Australia and create more jobs; and to put a hold on funding cuts to Screen Australia, the ABC and SBS.

Since 2014 the ABC’s commissioning budgets for adult drama and children’s content have both dropped by 20%. The Australian commercial networks Seven, Nine and Ten, united under the umbrella of Free TV, have called for local content quotas to be relaxed and for children’s content quotas to be axed entirely.

But the Make it Australian campaign says if the commercial broadcasters’ reduced quota proposal had been in place in 2016, more than 40% of drama hours, $125m in budgets, and 3,500 jobs would have been lost.

“Our ability to keep telling Australian stories on screen is at risk, and if our nation’s stories aren’t told, they die,” the letter reads.

A spokesperson for Fifield told Guardian Australia: “Mechanisms to support Australian drama, documentary and children’s content, including the Australian Screen Production Incentive, are being examined.

“The work on the review is ongoing.”

Earlier this month the Queensland government announced it had secured the production of the new Dora the Explorer live-action movie, amid fears the deal had been jeopardised by the federal government’s refusal to increase tax incentives.

Australia has a 16.5% tax offset for international film productions, compared with 25% in New Zealand. Make it Australian is calling for that offset to be increased to 30%.

with additional reporting by Anna Broinowski


Steph Harmon

The GuardianTramp

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