TV pilots steer clear of Australia

The Herald Sun(Sunday, February 9, 2003)

By: Kerry-Anne Walsh

One of Australia’s favourite Hollywood exports, Mel Gibson, has shunned Australia as a shooting location for a polot TV series because of poor Australian tax treatment.

And Australia is missing out on hundreds of millions of international TV dollars because it can’t compete with lucrative subsidies offered in other countries, according to a leading international TV producer.

Australian-born Gred Coote, president of Los Angeles-based production house Coote Hayes Productions, says a co-production with Icon, Gibson’s company, will be shot in Canada rather than the preferred choice of Australia. Canada offered $US200,000($339,000) in incentives to have the Shadow Walkers drama series pilot shot there, while Australia offered nothing.

“Loyal as we are, when you’er going head to head doing a budget comparing Australia and Canada, unfortunately you have to follow the money,” Coote told The Sun-Herald from LA.

The Federal Government gives a 12.5 per cent tax rebate to foreign companies that produce general release freatures, TV movies and mini-series in Australia. The tax break is not available for episodic TV programs or commercials.

Companies must spend between $15 million and $50 million in Australia to qualify.

Coote, who received an Order of Australia modal for his contribution to the local film industry, said Australia was losing hundreds of millions of dollars of TV investment because of the lack of tax subsidies. In the past three ears his company spent $300 million in Australia on TV production – but it would now boycott Australia until it offered tax concessions for episodic TV. Sources said the Government was willing to consider extending the tax offset to episodic TV if the industry could demonstrate it would deliver real benefits.