Australian TV rebate gets boost while popular film support is left at same level

The local industry has greeted both moves with relief.

By Sandy George 3 Dec 2021

Australian TV rebate gets boost while popular film support is left at same level
Docklands Studios

In a move welcomed with relief by the industry, the Australian government has passed legislation boosting the funding it provides for local television drama and dropping a series of changes that would have added to the difficulty of financing, in particular, low-budget features and documentaries.

The changes confirmed this week mostly relate to the Producer Offset (PO), a tax rebate for local production and for official co-productions between Australia and other countries. The rebate is now worth 30% up from 20% for TV drama, while the rebate for features stays at 40%. It had been proposed it would fall to 30% for the latter but the government backed down after an industry campaign.

It had been proposed producers could no longer claim the PO on overseas expenditure, despite many examples of successful features shot or partly shot internationally, including Lion and Tanna, and documentaries such as Sherpa. The value of the rebate was going to be undermined in other ways too and producers would also have had to spend A$1m, up from A$500,000, in order to be eligible at all. 

However, none of these changes were passed. Nor was a parallel change to the PDV (post, digital, VFX) Offset. This was a big relief to the post-production companies that have invested heavily to win more offshore work.

The saga has been a confusing one for the Australian industry, culminating in the possibility that the promised increase in TV funding would not be passed due to parliament getting ready to shut down for the year and a looming election in 2022. This would have left a significant amount of TV producers with budget shortfalls of 10%.

Balancing local and international funding

In mid-2020, with Australia booming again as a pandemic-era international locations hub, the government announced A$400m over seven years to attract offshore production. But many in the industry feared this would be at the expense of funding for the local industry, exemplified by the now-rejected proposed decrease of the feature rebate.

Additionally, the government significantly relaxed the Australian content rules on commercial broadcasters last year and did not impose any rules on streamers, arguing the increase in the rebate for television would ensure a continued flow of production.

On the positive side, however, the government provided an extra A$50m over two years for Screen Australia and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation although a big slice of this has been spent on safety measures related to the pandemic.

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