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New Zealand TV shows being used as local Australian content by Australia’s free-to-air networks


Big sell ... Robyn Malcolm in New Zealand dramedy, Agent Anna, which airs on 7Two. Picture: Supplied

WHEN they’re not beating us on the rugby field, it seems our trans-Tasman rivals are making moves to “backfill” our local television schedules with more and more hours of New Zealand programming.

A loophole in the Australian Content Standards legislation — which allows local networks to count Kiwi shows towards local content quotas — has marked an explosion in the broadcast hours of NZ-made shows airing across all free-to-air channels.

With the non-ratings period already biting into quality program choices for audiences, networks are increasingly offering up a slate of Kiwi dramas like Agent Anna (7Two) and The Almighty Johnsons (Go! and Gem); and ob-docs from Border Patrol (Seven) to Neighbours At War (7Two) as cheap fodder from across the Tasman Sea to fill out their multichannel schedules.

Bro-mance ... Nine’s Gem channel claimed NZ drama series, The Almighty Johnsons, towards its 2014 local drama quota. Picture: Supplied

While there has long been agreement to count NZ shows toward local TV targets, figures from the government watchdog, ACMA, confirm the hours of Kiwi content has dramatically escalated in recent years — from just 48 hours in 2012, to 120 hours in 2013; before rising further to 180 hours last year.

In addition, tax concessions offered by the New Zealand Government also saw Channel Seven’s new series, 800 Words — which claimed bragging rights asAustralia’s top-rating drama this year — filmed in New Zealand but be claimed as part of the network’s local drama quota. Coupled with the rising costs of producing drama here, and the trend to commission series with fewer episodes, local TV bosses argue they are wedged into “backfilling” their schedules with more hours of Kiwi content.

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