Not for Sale-Keeping 'Australian Culture' Australian
Testro, Lucas, Metro Magazine
ON OPENING THE AUSTRALIAN Content Standard--the Commonwealth Government's main tool for 'promoting the role of commercial television in developing and reflecting a sense of Australian identity' (1)--you will find an unusual statement. Section 5(3) of the Standard proclaims, 'this standard recognizes New Zealand programs ... equally with Australian programs'. For those who are confused, this statement means that the Australian Content Standard counts programmes produced in New Zealand as being Australian. Consequently, Australian commercial networks can theoretically broadcast only New Zealand programming and yet still satisfy their obligation under the Standard to broadcast a certain amount of 'local' programmes.
This strange qualification always makes me uncomfortable when I try to explain to overseas visitors the bi-partisan stand taken by consecutive Australian governments to protect and promote local culture. It is included in the Standard because of the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (CER), a free trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand which requires New Zealand and Australian goods to be treated equally, even in legislation designed to protect Australian culture.
Of course, the CER hasn't resulted in our screens being swamped by New Zealand content, mostly because New Zealand's production industry is much less developed than our own--it withered away after the New Zealand Government removed local content quotas in the 1980s, opening the country to a deluge of foreign programming. But imagine if the Australian Content Standard said 'this standard recognizes New Zealand programs and United States programs ... equally with Australian programs'. Then the ramifications would be very different. Australian programmes would be competing against a far stronger opponent to reach Australian screens, and the Australian film and television industry would be careening towards the same cliff that New Zealand's industry ran off a decade earlier. Something like this scenario could become a reality this year, as representatives of Australia and the United States of America sit down to …
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Publication information: Article title: Not for Sale-Keeping 'Australian Culture' Australian. Contributors: Testro, Lucas - Author. Magazine title: Metro Magazine. Issue: 138 Publication date: Fall 2003. Page number: 104+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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