Australia's commercial TV networks all met local content requirements for broadcasting in 2010. However, some of them wouldn't have made it over the line without help from New Zealand (and the local movie community).
Regulations in Australia dictate that commercial TV networks must meet minimum requirements for showing various types of newly-made Australian content. Those rules ensure that we maintain a viable local production industry and that distinctly Australian content does appear. For an example of what happens if those rules are ignored, just watch Go; secondary digital channels don't currently have any local content requirement.
Each year, the Australian Communications & Media Authority (ACMA) analyses that performance, and it's interesting to review just how the channels go about meeting those goals. (We conducted a similar review last year). The data covering the 2010 broadcast year has just been released by ACMA.
As ever, Australian content remains popular: every one of the top 40 rating programs in 2010 was an Australian production. The networks are required to meet a minimum 55% content standard between 6am and midnight (which also explains why dodgy US advertorials are so common overnight). Seven had 69%, Nine had 64% and Ten 61%.
However, within individual genres those results depend on what many people might think of as a trick: content produced in New Zealand counts towards the Australian total as well. The results varied quite a bit when it came to specific genres as well:
Drama: Networks need to score 250 drama 'points' each year. The points calculations are complex, with different rules for Australian films, serials acquired from independent producers, series produced in-house and shows which run for more than one hour a week (which means, in practical terms, Home & Away and Neighbours). All the networks scored over 250, but none scored more than 256, showing how closely this rule is monitored.
Seven scored most of its points through Home & Away, Packed To The Rafters and City Homicide, but still took 8.6% from New Zealand. Nine was much less reliant on New Zealand, which accounted for just 1.4%, but rather more reliant on movies. It had four drama serials (Cops LAC, Rescue Special Ops, Sea Patrol and Underbelly), but no long-running series. Notably, Underbelly is the only one of those series still going.
Ten was the major player of the New Zealand card, with almost a quarter of its score coming from New Zealand content (notably Go Girls and Outrageous Fortune). Neighbours accounted for almost half its score, which will be tricky for it in 2011 given that Neighbours is now on 11 and the points accrued for it no longer count. Its other major series were Offspring and Rush.
Documentary: Networks need to show 20 hours of new Australian documentaries each year. That figure was met very easily, with Seven showing 107 hours, Nine 45 hours and Ten 36 hours. On Seven, 18% of documentaries were from New Zealand, while Nine and Ten eschewed NZ content entirely. (Note that reality TV contests don't count as documentaries, which is just as well.)
While New Zealand content is important for drama quotas, it has much less influence in terms of viewing hours. New Zealand shows accounted for less than 1% of the total hours counted towards the networks' overall transmission totals. So we're not being overwhelmed with New Zealand shows, and it's hard to escape the conclusion that we wouldn't see anything other than the odd NZ documentary on Seven if it wasn't for the local drama rules.
What type of content would you like to see more frequently on Australian TV? And do you think it's reasonable to include New Zealand shows when calculating local broadcasts? Share your thoughts in the comments.
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