The position of Australia in the rest of the world geographically is important to consider when pondering whether the way we watch favours global cultural diversity over Australian Content. ‘Cultural Diversity’ is not what springs to mind when looking up at cinema and television screens across the nation. All that can be seen is America. The commercial performance of Australian films is often disappointing (Aveyard, 2011,p.35). Taken in conjunction with Screens Australia’s dismal track record, it is ‘not encouraging’ for the future of Australian Content production (2011,p.37). The big issue here is as discussed previously- not talent or audience, but that Australian films are no often served well by traditional marketing models 2011,p.38). The venues that screen the films are often booked out up to a year in advance for consistent supply of American films- leaving little room for locally produced content (2011,p.40), and the marketing budgets of Australian Content is insignificant in comparison with American films. Australian films tend to be smaller and more character focused than the big budget American blockbusters- and this is what we go to the cinema for.
An escape, a adventure, a view to a window into another world. This is demonstrated by the fact hat Hoyts will convert all of its screens to 3-D capable digital viewing (2011,p.41). The way to circumvent this is to take advantage of alternative distribution methods such as Netflix and VOD (Van Hemet & Ellison 2015,p.39).
It has been argued that when the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement was signed, Australian policy makers failed to take into account the consequences of the agreement for national culture industries such as film and television (Breen 2015,p.657). Despite this the most important and effective protectionist policy remained in tact- the determination of content quota.
- 55% of television programs had to be Australian.
- Up to 25% of existing quotas for commercial radio
- Subscription television had to spend 10% of programing budget + general entertainment channels on new Australian drama, with an increase of up to 20% and an extension of the 10% requirement for other genres (2015,p.663).
Despite this we still see a ‘problem’ with Australian content and in my view the distribution model is the main factor. The way we view content is changing, and the avenues for the type of content we are producing (character driven stories as opposed to action blockbusters) to be easily viewed is becoming more accessible- calling into question the ‘value and importance of traditional cinema exhibition’ ( 2015,p.46). The digital world is changing the way we do things at a rapid pace, and no amount of policy and trade agreements are going to prevent that change- Australian producers need to work with the tide for them to benefit. As I mentioned previously, in Australia- the screen is our window to the world and the desire to view through it is not going to disappear.
Breen, Marcus (2010) “Digital determinism: culture industries in the USA-Australia free trade agreement”. New Media and Society (12) 4, p 657-676.
Aveyard, Karina “Australian films at the cinema: rethinking the role of distribution and exhibition”. Media International Australia. February 2011, No. 138. p 36-45.
Van Hemert, Tess and Ellison, Elizabeth (2015) “Queensland’s film culture: the challenges of local film distribution and festival exhibition”. Studies in Australasian Cinema. 9:1. p 39-51.