Arts and media

Budget Review 2010-11 Index

Budget 2010–11: Arts and media

Dr John Gardiner-Garden and Dr Rhonda Jolly  


Most arts-related sums announced in the 2010–11 Budget media releases are continuations of existing funding.[1] Included in this category is:

  • $686.6 million over four years for the Australia Council
  • $3.2 million over two years for the Australia Business Arts Foundation
  • $4 million over four years for the Business Skills for Visual Artists initiative to assist the Indigenous arts industry (with Indigenous Arts Centres to replace the Australia Business Arts Foundation as administrator) and
  • $15.2 million for another year’s operation of the National Indigenous Television Service (with its continuation beyond that date subject to the findings of a promised review into the Indigenous broadcasting and media sector).

There were no significant budget increases for any of the national collecting institutions. The Minister reports that the Government will invest more than $8 million in an education and public programs facility for the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, and $7 million for an extension to the National Museum of Australia’s main building, to open up space for more exhibitions. It is apparent that these investments represent not new money, but simply permission to direct the money from their existing budget and reserves.

An additional $400 000 has been provided for the Contemporary Music Touring Program but the $260 000 over three years for CONTROL: The Business of Music Management, a training program to improve the business skills of music industry managers, is to come from existing Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts resources. 

Financial support for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards will be doubled to $400 000.  This will accommodate funding for two new children’s awards—$100 000 for best young adult fiction book and $100 000 for best children's fiction book. The rationale for such generous prize money is unclear.


The 2009–10 Budget provides for two changes in federal film support from 1 July 2010.[2] The first is dispensing with the requirement for film production costing between $15 million and $50 million to spend a minimum of 70 per cent of the production budgets in Australia to qualify for the 15 per cent Location Offset. The second is lowering of the amount, from $5 million to $500 000, a foreign film maker needs to spend to qualify for the 15 per cent rebate for the Post, Digital and Visual Effects Production (PDV). It is anticipated that these changes will encourage more films to be shot in Australia and more PDV projects to come to Australia. There may be still further changes to federal film support mechanisms when the Government receives the recommendations of a Review of the Australian Independent Screen Production Sector currently being conducted by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.[3]

Digital television

Last year’s Budget delivered considerable funding to assist regions in the switchover to digital television which is due to commence progressively from 1 July 2010. Victoria’s Mildura/Sunraysia region is scheduled to be the first region in Australia to ‘go digital’.[4] This Budget has delivered funding to deal with one of the problems identified with switchover, inadequate television reception in some communities, most of which are in regional and remote areas. 

Areas of inadequate reception, also known as black spot reception areas, have been able to receive analogue television either through self-help transmission services or through a direct to the home (DTH) satellite service. According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), there are 177 sites with one or more self-help retransmission services located in metropolitan and regional licence areas and 486 sites in remote Australia. [5] There is DTH satellite reception equipment installed in more than 74 000 households.[6]

In early 2009, the Government recognised the difficulties self-help transmission sites would experience in digital switchover and promised that it would introduce a satellite service to remedy this problem.[7] In January 2010, the Government announced television broadcasters had agreed to upgrade 100 existing analogue self-help sites to enable them to operate in digital mode. Viewers in the transmission area of these sites would then ‘simply need to install a high definition set-top-box to access a full suite of digital television channels’.[8] The satellite service would be funded to provide digital television to the remaining self-help sites.[9]

By April 2010, the Government had reached an agreement with Southern Cross Media and Imparja to establish a joint venture company, Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST), to deliver the satellite service. The VAST service will transmit programming in standard definition from the Seven, Nine and Ten networks and their digital channels, as well as all ABC and SBS channels and high definition channels. The Government also announced that a $400 subsidy would be paid to eligible households to convert to the new satellite service. This would assist in the purchase of a satellite set-top-box with an access ‘smart card’, a satellite dish and cabling.[10]

Funding of $375.4 million over 12 years has been allocated in this Budget to assist commercial and national broadcasters to provide the digital television satellite solution for self-help sites. The funding will be used to build the service, to assist broadcasters in upgrading the 100 existing analogue sites as agreed with the Government and to provide satellite conversion subsidies to communities unable to receive terrestrial digital broadcasts.

The Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee recently examined the digital satellite solution in the context of legislation under which the satellite service will be established. The Committee noted a number of concerns about the service. These included the extent to which the satellite platform will be available to narrowcasters, such as National Indigenous Television (NITV).[11] The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), however, assured the Committee that this concern was unwarranted; narrowcasters would not be precluded from the satellite.[12]

A further issue of concern surrounding the satellite service is that relating to the delivery of local content. In two of the licence areas to which the satellite service will be delivered a dedicated local news channel will need to operate. This channel will ‘aggregate’ local news from terrestrial regional broadcasters who broadcast in the licence areas. The terrestrial broadcasters will then be required under their licence conditions to provide local material to the satellite broadcaster ‘as soon as practicable’ after the terrestrial licensee begins broadcast of the material. It may be possible that broadcasters’ interpretations of what is ‘practicable’ could amount to the delivery of information hours after a broadcast on terrestrial television and, at the least, at an inconvenient time for audiences.[13] This issue appears not to have been resolved during the Senate inquiry into the service.   

Little comment appears to have been made concerning the Government’s satellite proposals since the Budget was released. However, as one report pointed out, the funding for the satellite service comes on top of licence fee rebates to broadcasters to assist them to convert to digital and funding for regional digital switchover, which was allocated by the Howard Government in 2000 under the Regional Equalisation Plan.[14]

It appears, therefore, that not only is this funding about providing equity of access for certain audiences, it also effectively continues a long-standing tradition of government largess for commercial broadcasters. It is of course difficult to see what practical alternative the Government had to this dilemma for as Broadcast Australia’s Stephen Farrugia maintains, it would be almost impossible to guarantee a 100 per cent terrestrial broadcast coverage. The alternative to a satellite solution could well have been no pictures at all for many communities, especially those in remote Australia.[15]  

[1].    P Garrett (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts), J Macklin (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) and M Arbib (Minister for Employment Participation), Budget investments in arts, culture and heritage, media release, 11 May 2010, viewed 12 May 2010,

[2].    P Garrett (Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts), and N Sherry (Assistant Treasurer), Changes to film tax offsets to boost Australian film industry,  media release, 11 May 2010, viewed 12 May 2010,

[3].    For the announcement of this review, see P Garrett (Minister for Environment Protection, Heritage and the Arts), Review of the Australian Independent Screen Production Sector open for comment, media release, 22 March 2010, viewed 13 May 2010,; and, for the Review’s terms of reference, discussion paper and submission form, see

[4].    The 2009–10 Budget provided $138.7 million over three years to assist regions in South Australia, Victoria and Queensland to undertake switchover. Funding of $119.7 million over three years was provided to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to deliver a digital television information and communications campaign and to initiate a technical assistance program for eligible households in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.

[5].    Approximately 22 000 households in metropolitan areas, 48 000 households in regional areas and 85 000 households in remote areas are served by self-help retransmission facilities. Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), Report on Digital Television Transmission and Reception, DBCDE, 2010, viewed 14 May 2010,    

[6].    Digital Broadcasting, Digital conversion of self-help television retransmission sites: discussion paper, Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Canberra, 2007, viewed 14 May 2010,

[7].    S Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy), Package to drive digital television transition, media release, 29 January 2009, viewed 14 May 2010,

[8].    S Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy), Digital television Australia-wide, media release, 5 January 2010, viewed 14 May 2010,

[9].    Ibid.

[10]. S Conroy (Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy), Landmark agreement to deliver digital TV to remote, regional and blackspot viewers, media release, 14 April 2010,viewed 14 May 2010,

[11]. National Indigenous TV Limited (NITV), Submission to the Senate Environment, Communications, and the Arts Committee Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010, viewed 6 April 2010,      

[12]. A Townend, Deputy Secretary, Broadcasting and Digital Switchover, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy,  quoted in Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee, Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010 [Provisions], The Senate, Canberra, May 2010, p. 3, viewed 14 May 2010, 

[13]. Proposed clause 7(d) of the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010.

[14]. G Elliott, ‘Gov's $375m for digital TV rollout keeps the dollars flowing’,  The Australian, 11 May 2010, viewed 14 May 2010,          

[15]. S Farrugia, ‘Tackling the digital black spots’, Onscreen Asia website, viewed 17 May 2010,