Want more Swamp People? Then drop the local content quota

The short-sighted idea of dropping TV networks’ local content quota obligations was put back on the agenda today with ad agency CEO Mat Baxter claiming the safety net can now be removed, because we’re all loving local content.

But Australian programs rating well, and the Australian TV industry thriving are completely different.

Despite the high ratings of Packed to the Rafters and The X Factor, what is the likelihood commercial programmers would keep investing in Australian shows? Slim, considering FTA industry body Free TV’s two cents to the convergence review was a request to ease local content rules.  It doesn’t fill me with confidence that they’d keep investing.

To buy a pre-packaged program from the US can be one-tenth the price of making something local, so it’s just straight business sense for programmers to buy internationally.

Cast your remote, Mat, to Eleven, Gem or 7Mate and see what happens when a channel has no local content ruling. Swamp People and Murphy Brown – that’s what happens.

In these pre-convergence review days, the multi-channels are the perfect example of Programmers Gone Wild.

The multi-channels are the ideal arenas to offer alternative local TV. With the ad rates on digital channels being generally much cheaper, in place of The Brady Bunch, they could try screening Australian short films; instead of Heartbeat, show local documentaries (docos on a commercial channel, say it ain’t so!), and possibly, maybe, commission a comedy… if it’s good. If they work, bump them up to the network’s parent channel.

Hell, It’s A Knockout would have sufficed as a good multi-channel option, but so genius is the idea of this second-hand and branded-content series it will air on Ten* in prime time.

Indeed a few locally produced programs, drama specifically, are performing swimmingly, but there’s not a lot in the pool.

As per the convergence review, since 2008, foreign content on free to air television has increased 154 per cent, while Australian content only by 59 per cent.

Local drama-only programming accounts for 7.8 per cent of hours on TV while US drama-only accounts for 81 per cent of broadcast hours.

Look to your left, the Australian film industry is drowning not waving, though I’m not suggesting local theatres should be subjected to similar content rulings – that’s a whole other mess.

What I am saying Mat, is I am not confident. While Packed to the Rafters and Underbelly might stick around, everything from Wild Boys down the rating charts would disappear… or get moved to a multi-channel, deemed experimental because it’s local and drama.

*Sarcasm aside, I can’t wait for HG to get behind the commentary mic for more ‘flap jacks’ and ‘hello boys’.

Colin Delaney


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