From next year, Australian broadcasters will no longer need to air an annual quota of 260 hours of kids’ programming, along with 130 hours of pre-school content, following a government shake up of regulations.

The move comes after heavy lobbying from the media industry.

Commercial broadcasters will still need to ensure that 55% of material broadcast between 6am and midnight is Australian content, Mumbrella reported. Broadcasters must also provide 1,460 hours of Australian content a year on their multi-channels.

But the rules’ simplification means networks will be able to broadcast a mix of drama, children’s material and documentaries to fulfil their quota (although there will be a limit on the number of hours of documentary content that can be broadcast). The regulations are temporarily suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but will come back into force from January 1, 2021.

Beyond the cap on the number of hours of documentaries, it will be up to individual broadcasters to choose the particular mix of content they broadcast based on their business strategy and judgement of audience and advertiser appeal.

Making the announcement, the government said it will inject A$53 million into the development and production of local film and television as part of the 2020-21 Federal Budget.

A$30 million will be provided to Screen Australia over two years to “support the production of Australian drama, documentary and children’s film and television content”, announced communications minister Paul Fletcher.

Screen Australia will also receive an additional A$3 million over three years to establish a “competitive grants programme to cultivate quality Australian screenwriting and script development” the minister added.

A$20 million will also be provided to the Australian Children’s Television Foundation over two years “to boost the development, production and distribution of high-quality Australian children’s content.”

New rules will also come into force from July next year that will cut in half local-content spending requirements that apply to subscription services, like Foxtel, cutting the requirement from 10% to 5%.

The changes come following heavy criticism of the quotas, the children’s content requirement in particular, with critics arguing that these were not sustainable. The changes have been broadly welcomed by key industry figures.

Ten boss Beverley McGarvey said the reforms were “a win for audiences, a win for networks and a win for the local production sector”.

However, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) union, said the changes would lead to job losses and only serve to benefit commercial TV companies and streaming giants, Mumbrella reported.

Sourced from Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development & Communications; Mumbrella