Things might just be looking up for indie kids producers in Australia. If all goes according to plan, national public broadcaster ABC Australia should be welcoming brand-new children’s diginet ABC3 to the airwaves in April 2008.
Mid-way through the campaign for the upcoming November 24 federal election, the government led by incumbent Prime Minister John Howard declared support for the new channel pitched by the ABC and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation some 12 months ago. With the commitment comes US$74 million in funding over four years to bankroll the project. The one fly in the ointment, however, is that Howard’s opposition, the Australian Labour Party, has yet to endorse the proposal. If it doesn’t, and if it wins the election, ABC3 is toast.
While recognizing that it’s not quite a fait à compli, the ABC has gone on the record with its plans for the channel. A commercial-free platform, ABC3 will be made available nationwide via digital set-top boxes or digital TVs. And with a 15-hour broadcast day, programming should run the gamut from preschool to teen, drawing heavily on the ABC’s existing library of Australian-made fare.
The impetus for the launch, said ABC director of Television Kim Dalton in an official statement, stems from the need to provide the country’s children with a high level of homegrown content and stop them from migrating to international fare. Also as part of the plan, ABC intends to rebuild its schools and educational services outreach efforts.
During her announcement endorsing the channel, federal communications minister Helen Coonan appealed directly to Aussie parents, stating that not only would kids be getting local content with the new channel, they also wouldn’t be subjected to advertising, particularly junk food advertising. Unlike the UK, Australia has no plans to regulate junk food ads on kids TV, so ABC3 is being offered as an alternative to commercial nets.
The good news for producers in the region is that ABC’s Dalton has confirmed that half of ABC3′s launch budget is earmarked for new commissions and acquisitions. As to what shape that spending takes, the community is going to have to wait until ABC3′s launch is made official by the incoming government.
This isn’t ABC’s first attempt at launching a digital kids channel. Fly TV closed down four years ago after a dispute between ABC management and the government at the time. Hopefully, history won’t repeat itself anytime soon.