Internationalising Australian Children's Television Drama: The Collision of Australian Cultural Policy and Global Market Imperatives

Potter, Anna (2005) Internationalising Australian Children's Television Drama: The Collision of Australian Cultural Policy and Global Market Imperatives. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

Abstract

When considering the effects of cultural policy on international trade in television programming there is an area that is frequently overlooked, that of classification and censorship. The role that classification and censorship play as tools of cultural policy is poorly understood, as is their impact on the ease with which television programs can be traded. A broad definition of cultural policy has been used here, in order to

encompass both its theoretical and practical elements. Cultural policy as expressed through television classification and censorship is seen here as having three layers. These layers are legislative policy such as local content quotas, the content gate keeping carried out by television producers prior to production, and program classification, that is the implementation of local programming codes by broadcasters.

It is important to understand the effects of television regulatory regimes, including those that govern content classification, on the international trade in programs for two reasons. One is the precedence international economic agreements generally take over cultural policy, because classification and censorship can quietly undermine this precedence in a way which currently receives little attention. The second is the importance of the export market to the Australian television production industry, which

is unable to fully fund its program output from local markets.

Australian children's drama and its export to the UK are the focus of this research as this provides an excellent example of the current tensions between cultural policy and economic imperatives. Australian children's drama is tightly regulated through government policy, particularly the demands of the 'C' (children's) classification. It is argued here that the demands of current Australian cultural policy are making it extremely difficult for Australian producers to internationalise their product and thus cultivate a competitive advantage in international markets.

With the advent of digital technology and the end of spectrum scarcity, the television landscape is changing rapidly. Australian producers of children's programming are facing commercial challenges that have been created by the proliferation of children's channels in the UK and particularly the popularity on those channels of American animation. While the need to cultivate a competitive advantage is pressing, Australian producers of children's programming are also having to accommodate the three layers of cultural policy described earlier, that is the demands of government policy regarding the 'C' classification, the local programming codes of their export market, in this case the United Kingdom, and their own internalised cultural values as expressed through

their gate keeping roles.

My Industry experience in a senior compliance role in the pay television industry led to an awareness of the impact of local classification procedures on international trade in programming and provided the initial starting point for this research. Through scholarly investigation and interviews with three key producers of Australian children's programs and a senior UK programmer, certain findings regarding the impact of regulatory regimes on the export of Australian children's programs have been reached.

The key findings of this research are firstly, that the rationales and operations of national classification schemes seem to be fundamentally untouched by supranational trade agreements and arguably are able to act as restraints on international trade. Additionally, programs that do not conform to the societal values of the countries to which they are being exported, will not sell. Secondly, multi-channelling is having the unexpected effect of driving down prices achieved for children's programs which is a cause for concern, given the importance of international sales to Australian producers.

Part of this decline in pricing may be attributed to the rise in popularity of inexpensive animation, which now dominates children's channels in the UK. Thirdly, this research finds that Australian cultural policy is preventing Australian producers cultivating a

competitive advantage in international markets, by making demands regarding content and quality that render their programs less attractive to overseas channels.

If the Australian government believes that certain culturally desirable forms of television such as high quality, children's programming should continue to exist, it may in future have to modify its cultural policy in order to attain this objective.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 16016
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Spurgeon, Christina & Donald, Stephanie
Keywords: Internationalisation; trade in children’s television; cultural policy; censorship and classification; local content regulation; children’s production assistance; television regulation; cultural imperialism
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Creative Industries Faculty
Department: Creative Industries
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Anna Potter
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:55
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:42

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