The study of media and audiences is a fascinating one that inevitably boils down to the following question – Does the media influence its audience? Or does the audience influence its media? The ambiguous relationship is very similar to the philosophical dilemma – What came first the chicken or the egg?
If, for the moment, we are to assume that the media influences its audience then we must talk about the potential threat of a decline in Australian content in our media.
In 2010, the Rudd Government introduced a $250 million licensing rebate as incentive for commercial television networks to increase their level of Australian content. Additionally, just recently, a new industry-funded watchdog has been proposed to, among other things, bolster Australian content, particularly children’s programs, dramas and documentaries.
In other words, Australian content is on the decline in some areas, not all areas.
Australian children’s programs, dramas, and documentaries may be dwindling but what about our other programs?
Australian sport is soaring. Let’s take a look at the NRL. One of the biggest stories in Rugby League right now is the upcoming TV rights deal that will see the code land its most profitable negotiation ever.
Australian Reality TV is also peaking with The Voice constantly topping the ratings.
And, while Adam Hills on Gordon Street is the only locally made talk show on free-to-air, it gets a better timeslot and higher ratings in Australia than American successes such as The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
If we now consider that the audience influences the media, can we justify the necessity of regulations on global content?
The networks are listening to what the audience wants and acting accordingly. Quite simply, Australian children’s programs just can’t compete with classics such as Sesame Street, and Australian dramas like Sea Patrol will not rival the high budget of American dramas such as Dexter.
This does not mean Australian content is in danger, because when we consider sport, no network would ever consider dropping their coverage of the cricket in favour of America’s showpiece the NFL. Sport is part of our culture and we will not be influenced by America or any other country in this regard.
Essentially it comes down to quality and culture, and we, the eggs, rely on our media chickens to provide us with a certain standard of viewing. However, until the standard of Australian content increases, global content will continue to fill the gaps.