Debate: The way we watch favours global cultural diversity over Australian content
America has long since dominated the global film industry due to the strength of the industry and globalisation (Silver, 2007), and as we’ve been uncovering over the past few weeks, Australia’s film industry has been complicated. To strengthen ties and remove barriers between America and Australian film production, both countries signed a ‘bilateral trade treaty in 2005 providing the best means to enhance social and economic development’ (Breen, 2010). This FTA (free trade agreement) occurred against the backdrop of UNESCO’s ‘Universal Declaration of Cutural Diversity’ which was created to protect cultural rights in a globalizing world (Middlemost, 2016). Quite a contrasting image.
We can then look at digital determinism which ‘exposes the power of national technological dominance and its impact on national culture industries’ (Breen, 2010, pp. 660). This FTA therefore represents that the United States have a platform to influence and impact the Australian film industry. But will this always be beneficial? And if digital determinism is to continue in Australia, does that mean we’ll be watching more or less Australian content?
With the continuation of FTA agreements and the rise of co productions, people have developed a strong sense of protectionism which is strongly related to nationalism. We’re concerned about who will work on co produced films, where will the money go, who will come into the county… and with these questions, skeptics can then question if these decisions are good for Australian and Australians. This would then lead to strong economic and cultural protectionism which could see these FTA’s unravel and lead to fragmentation of content (Szakonyi, 2007). FTA’s should be focused around the audience and the people they are creating content for, and not companies to take advantage of free trade. However, with a FTA with the United States, this means that they ‘set the agenda for other countries and thereby retains a position of power and has intensified through FTA’s’ (Jin, 2011).
The Way We Watch
By analysing the infographic created by Screen Australia, we can see that Australian audiences are watching nearly an equal amount of Australian and international TV series on VOD services. It also states that Hollywood films are less dominant on VOD services than at the cinemas (Screen Australia, 2015). And these TV watching habits have dramatically changed in recent times. The Australian Netflix has over 1million subscribers (The Sydney Morning Herald, 2015), making it the largest VOD service in Australia. However, customers can only access limited Australian content. Plus, the Australian Netflix has about 10% of the American Netflix library. And Netflix are ensuring that we can’t access other libraries through VPN’s. So the way we watch – Netflix, ultimately affects whether or not we can access Australian content, or if we can only access international content.
Because the world is becoming increasingly globalized, we need to acknowledge the inter connectedness of the world which includes film industries. However, national film industries should be focused around consumer and audiences – not to economically benefit large production companies. If Australia is going to continue with FTA’s then we should ensure that these agreements protect cultural diversity but are also allowed to flourish to an international audience.
Breen, M 2010, ‘Digital determinism: culture industries in the USA-Australia Free Trade Agreement’, New media & society, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 657-676
Jin, D 2011, ‘A critical analysis of US cultural policy in the global film market: Nation States and FTA’s’, The International Communication Gazette, Vol. 73, No. 8, pp. 651-669
Middlemost, R 2016, ‘Making space for Australian content: Free Trade Agreements and how we watch’, BCM330, University of Wollongong, Lecture Materials, delivered 19 January 2016
Screen Australia, 2015, ‘Australian Audiences are Watching Online’, Screen Australia, March, viewed 2 February 2016, https://screenaustralia.gov.au/news_and_events/bulletins/didyouknow/2015/10Mar2015.aspx
Silver, J 2007, ‘Hollywood’s dominance of the film industry: how did it arise and how has it been maintained?’, Queensland University of Technology, November, viewed 2 February 2016, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/16687/1/Jonathan_Derek_Silver_Thesis.pdf
Szakonyi, D 2007, ‘The Rise of Economic Nationalism under Globalization and the Case of Post-Communist Russia’, SRAS, 16 May, viewed 2 February 2016, http://www.sras.org/economic_nationalism_under_globalization
The Sydney Morning Herald, 2015, ‘Netflix hits 1million subscribers in Australia’, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 2 February 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/business/world-business/netflix-hits-1-million-subscribers-in-australia-20151113-gkygsj.html