It is my pleasure to present the 2015- 2016 Annual Report for the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF).
Our back catalogue – 34 years of ACTF programs – has recently been digitised and ingested into a Media Asset Management system (the MAM). My home state of Western Australia made me very proud this year, when it became the first state to take advantage of the opportunity to acquire access to the entire library of ACTF programs and educational resources for all schools in Western Australia through its online portal. By the end of the year it had been joined by the Department of Education in the Northern Territory. Naturally I would love to see all other states follow suit!
Technological change has made these opportunities possible. But the fact that they happen, is testament to the quality of the content: the fact that children’s dramas stand up to repeat viewing, are relatable to generations of Australian children and explore issues and themes that teachers can go on to use in the classroom many years after they first went to air on television. You can’t achieve that if you don’t invest in quality in the first place.
Children’s drama is not cheap to make. It requires significant investment. We have the bi-partisan support of successive Australian Governments to thank for this rich legacy of programs and the international reputation Australia enjoys for children’s drama. For not only has the Commonwealth supported the ACTF (with modest funding, currently sitting at $2.86 million per year), but it has also supported Screen Australia and the ABC, two much larger organisations, to invest in Australian children’s programs. Screen Australia’s enabling legislation specifically mentions that it will invest in “programs of interest to children” and the ABC received a funding boost of $67 million over three years in 2009 in order to establish its digital children’s channel, ABC3 (now re-branded as ABCME). The ACTF is concerned, however, that the Commonwealth support intended for children’s content is in danger of being eroded as funds provided to Screen Australia and the ABC are re-directed away from children’s programs in response to budget pressures.
Recently I was asked why it was important to invest in children’s drama, when it is possible to “make something for nothing, put it up on YouTube and get a million views”. Well why write a novel when you could write a jingle for a greeting card and sell just as many copies? I don’t really mind whether our content is watched on the box or online, through a TV channel or an App.
But I care that it makes a contribution to our culture, contributes to a shared experience of childhood for Australian children, stands the test of time and is watched over and over again by new generations of children.
That is what high quality, carefully crafted professional programs do. And that is what public funds for children’s programs should achieve.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Ministers who have supported the ACTF and its activities this year, and their relevant Departments for their cooperation and assistance. I would also like to thank my fellow Board members for their contribution to the work of the ACTF, particularly Kerry Gardner, Phil Lambert, Anna King and Helen Wildash, who left the Board during the year. All four were highly valued members of the ACTF and in ordinary circumstances you would not single one out. It is appropriate, however, to acknowledge that Phil Lambert represented NSW on the Board for 12 years, during which time he truly helped shape the organisation that we are today and embodied our values and mission in his every contribution.
Finally, on behalf of the Board, I would like to thank Jenny Buckland and the entire team at the ACTF for another great year.
Janet Holmes à Court