Regulating for Local Content in the Digital Audiovisual Environment - A View from Australia
Entertainment Law Review, 2007
32 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2007
The regulation of broadcasting has always been based on a desire to achieve certain social and cultural goals. One of the fundamental cultural and, indeed, political goals for the broadcasting of audiovisual content in a democratic, mediated society is to encourage diversity, both in terms of the range of content and media "voices". In Australia, a further aim of broadcasting regulation is to ensure the adequate supply of local audiovisual content on local broadcasting outlets. As such, Australian content quotas have been imposed on free-to-air commercial television broadcasters since the early 1960s.
While content quotas, like most features of media policy, have often been the subject of debate, there is a general acceptance in policy-making and in broader academic thinking, that content quotas have been effective in achieving a certain level of diversity of content on our televisions. Some have also argued that they have been crucial in supporting a sustainable Australian production industry. More recently, however, the looming integration of television with internet and broadband capabilities, as well as the introduction of digital television, has resulted in speculation about the future of Australian content quotas - and, indeed, about the future of broadcasting regulation more generally. In particular, it has been claimed that these new distribution channels have the potential to disturb the longstanding technological and economic factors on which current domestic regulation is based.
This paper explores the future of Australian content quotas in light of digital television and emergent, internet-based television services. Part II describes the current system of broadcasting regulation in Australia, focusing in particular on the interaction between economic and cultural goals. Part III considers the challenges to existing regulation presented by digital television and the distribution of programming via broadband internet. Finally, Part IV examines some of the solutions that have been proposed to achieve adequate levels of local Australian content in the digital media age, including a consideration of a possible solution not yet fully explored in the Australian context: the introduction of a public service publisher, or a PSP. Also considered is how this and other policy responses might be limited by Australia's recent entry into a free-trade agreement with the United States.
Keywords: local content, television, digital, audiovisual, Australia
JEL Classification: K10, K23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation