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Canberra steps in with $50 million aid for insurance-hit production sector

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The Federal Government will provide $50 million in financial aid to kick-start the local film and television production industry, where new projects have stalled since the virus outbreak in March because insurers are declining cover for COVID-19 and other pandemic-related risks.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the measure last week as part of a $250 million package to help the creative economy recover from the fallouts of the pandemic.

Screen Australia will administer the $50 million Temporary Interruption Fund, with the money to go towards helping local film and television producers secure finance and start filming again.

“Filming of new productions has largely been halted as insurers are not providing coverage for COVID-19,” a statement from the office of the Prime Minister said, adding the financial aid will support “thousands of jobs” employed by the sector.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has welcomed the financial support, saying it will help production companies to start work again.

“The fund will assist to secure much needed capital to the hundreds of small businesses which make up the independent production sector so that we can start the cameras rolling again and return thousands of workers back to work across the broad range of jobs that our industry creates,” SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said.

“Our industry was one of the earliest and hardest hit by COVID-19, impacting 120 local productions and affecting over 30,000 working employees, freelancers and contractors.”

Production companies need insurance to cover key cast and crew from getting ill and to secure funding from broadcasters, screen bodies and distributors. The blanket exclusion on the coronavirus has made it near impossible for the industry to resume work.

The CEO of a local production house, who chose not to be named, says it is too early to know how the $50 million fund will help, but he welcomes the announcement.

He says it is still impossible to find insurance with no COVID-19 exclusion.

“The insurance companies just won’t cover it,” he said.