Australian vs. American Content

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).

 

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What, when, where and how Australian audiences are watching content online. Source

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.

 

 

References

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

Assumptions of ‘Strayan Content

What are the key assumptions surrounding the production of Australian content?

Straight-to-the-pool-room-The-castle

Australian Media… for some reason, it just doesn’t have a ring to it. Whenever I think of Australian films, I subconciously roll my eyes. Don’t get me wrong… I do enjoy (some) Australian films (Muriel’s Wedding being a personal fave) but overall they leave me questioning a lot about the Australian film industry. And then I discovered that apparently the Great Gatsby is classified as an Australian film (and who doesn’t love a bit of Leo?) So why is it that when we think of Australian media, we think of the following things?

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Our class came up with this mind map when asked ‘what do you think of when you hear “Australian movies”?’ Seems like Australian Media Content needs some re-modelling.

Overall, Australian Media Content kind of leaves us with this look on our faces.

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Uh… Australian films. Source 

A way to understand and change the look above from drab to fab, is to explore some of the key assumptions and expectations of Australian film and media content.

What is an Australian film?

Do the actors need to be Australian? Does it need to be set in Australia? What if the director is Australian? Or the crew? Or the production company?

Screen Australia are the people behind most of these Australian films. It is funded by the federal government to support ‘Australian screen production, with an aim to create an Australian industry that is innovative, culturally important and commercially sustainable’ (Screen Australia, 2015). Screen Australia was a product of the merging of the Australian Film Commision, The Film Finance Corporation Australia and Film Australia Limited. For a film to be classified as Australian it must primarily be under ‘creative control’ (Middlemost, 2015). That’s why films like the Great Gatsby can be classified as Australian.

The clip below discusses some of these points and highlights it’s commonly believed a film is Australian if the majority of creative content and control is by Australians, or if it showcases our culture or people.

 

The Conversation offers an interesting point, suggesting that by trying to limit and narrow our definition of ‘Australian content’ and emphasising ‘Australian-ness’ is ‘actually holding back the Australian film industry’ (The Conversation, 2012). They argue that a films success should not be determined by their ‘cultural worthiness,’ and instead should be based on merit of the film as a whole.

What does it mean to be Australian?

By questioning the definition of an Australian film, does this in turn question Australian identity?

Australian media has had a long history of contributing towards the creation and reinforcement of Australian identity. Price suggests that the consistent representation of Australians as beach goers from Bondi Beach, or bushman living in the outback, contributes towards a national identity myth (Price, 2010). These ideas have been present within Australian society since Federation, where through print media like The Bulletin, Boomerang and Lone Hand, the image of a ‘white male, a practical working man, stoic, irreverent, anti-authoritarian and the epitome of loyalty and mateship,’was perpetuated and reinforced by the media at the time (Sievwright, 2012).

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Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in Baz Luhrmann’s film ‘Australia.’ Source

What’s the solution?

This image no longer reflects Australian identity and therefore must evolve that represent the real Australians living here. ‘Make films that engage Australian audiences. Make films that are good quality. Make films that have characters that resonate with Australian audiences. People just want to be entertained, to be swept away by the story’ (Quinn, 2014).

But is it that simple? 

Audiences are torn between claiming ‘Australian films’ like the Great Gatsby and celebrating success, and being represented accurately as an ‘Australian.’ But then again, is it a films purpose to represent national identity, or tell a story? The ideas and issues that arise from discussing Australian media content are complex but necessary to start talking about so that we can wipe that ‘urgh’ look off our faces when we talk about Australian films.

 

References

Middlemost, R 2015, ‘Key Concerns of Australian Media Content’, University of Wollongong, Lecture Week 1, delivered 1 December 2015

Price, E 2010, ‘Reinforcing the myth: construction Australian identity in ‘reality TV”, Continuum, 24: 3, 451-459, accessed 4 December 2015, https://www.griffith.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/447765/Sarah-Baker-Price_Reinforcing-the-Myth-in-Bondi-Rescue.pdf

Quinn, K 2014, ‘Why won’t we watch Australian films?’, Sydney Morning Herald, 26 October, accessed 2 December 2015, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/why-wont-we-watch-australian-films-20141024-11bhia.html

Screen Australia, 2015, Who We Are, accessed 4 December 2015, http://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/about_us/Who-We-Are_pg.aspx

Sievwright, B 2012, ‘Nationalism and Federation: Creating the Commonwealth of Australia’, History in the Making, University of Melbourne, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 75-82, viewed 4 December 2015, http://www.historyitm.org/index.php/hitm/article/view/123/29

The Conversation, 2012, ‘Strewth! How Aussie do Australian cinema need to be?’, The Conversation, 30 March, viewed 4 December 2015, http://theconversation.com/strewth-how-aussie-does-australian-cinema-need-to-be-5232