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Australian music on Australian radio - The Debate     FORUM May 17, 2011

From the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
Online media reports on 2010 digital content quotas by ACMA
The following is an excerpt from:
"Local Content Requirements For Film, Radio and Television as a Means of Protecting Cultural Diversity: Theory and Reality by Ivan Bernier. View complete article

"Although the number of States who currently maintain radio quotas is relatively small, the number has tended to increase rather than decrease over the years. According to a study made public in 2003, Australia was apparently the first to introduce such quotas:
  • The first Australian local content standard was introduced as part of the 1942 Broadcasting Act.

  • This stipulated that not less than of 2.5% of music time be devoted to the work of Australian composers.

  • In 1956 it was raised to 5%.

  • In 1973 the Australian Broadcasting Control Board introduced an auxiliary quota for Australian-performed music; this was initially set at 10% and was increased to 20% in 1976.

  • In 1987 the Tribunal conducted a review of the standard, as a result of which amendments were introduced changing the compliance period from 24 hours a day to between 6am and midnight.

  • The 20% level, along with the 1987 amendments,remained the standard until 1992 when the new Broadcasting Services Act made local content quotas part of a self regulatory code for commercial and community broadcasters.
The goal of the self regulatory code currently in place is to facilitate the achievement of one of theobjectives of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which is to develop and reflect a betterperception of the identity, character, and cultural diversity of Australia. The fact that theAustralian radio quota is now integrated in a self regulatory code does not change the legal natureof the measure from the perspective of international trade regulation. Since it is linked to government measure, namely the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992, it is still considered a government intervention.

In 1972, Canada also introduced radio quotas. In their current version, these quotas require that radio stations ensure that a minimum of 35% of popular music songs broadcasted are Canadian and, in the case of francophone radio stations, that a minimum of 55% of popular music songs broadcasted are in French, the two requirements applying both during the week and between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. A little over 20 years later, France was inspired by the Canadian experiment to adopt the Loi du 1er février 1994, which “requires private radio stations tobroadcast, beginning January 1, 1996, French-language songs for 40% of their variety musicprogram during peak listening hours, with at least half of the material being from new artists or new productions.” In 1997, South Africa adopted in the same vein a regulation titled “The South African Music Local Content Regulation,” which requires at least 20% of music broadcast from5 a.m. – 11 p.m. to be from South Africa and to be fairly evenly distributed during that time period.

The purpose of the regulation was to develop, protect, and promote cultural identity on a regional and national level, and to establish a dynamic and creative industry in this domain. These few examples of countries that currently maintain such a system of radio quotas is not exhaustive; these are simply the best documented. In reality, it appears that a larger number of countries than one would think have resorted to radio quotas in order to promote the creation ofmusic within their territories. A comparative study by Richard Letts for the Music Council of Australia in 2003 included three developing countries in this category: Nigeria, with a quota of 80%; the Philippines, with a requirement of at least 4 Philippine compositions per hour; and Uruguay, with a quota of 30%.

However, nothing indicates that these are the only countries with such practices, and an in-depth study on the topic could show a significantly larger number of States acting likewise."

How The Free Trade Agreement affects local content quotas of Australian radio and television

Local Content Rules in Australian TV and radio ensure that Australian stories and Australian voices are heard over the deluge of American programming. But the US, not content with this, has used the FTA to limit Australia’s right to regulate its film, TV and radio.

The US has reported that "the FTA contains important and unprecedented provisions to improve market access for U.S. films and television programs over a variety of media including cable, satellite, and the Internet."

The FTA significantly limits the government's right to regulate the Australian media, including:
  • In the Multi-Channel environment for Free To Air TV, 80% of channels will be free of local content regulation.
  • Pay TV will only have to spend 10% of their total production budget on local content, and this only applies to arts, children's, documentary, drama and educational shows - other subjects can have no local content quotas.
  • In the area of Australian film, the ability to regulate has been lost.
Related links Here is an excerpt from the article linked above from the Music Council of Australia website

Intervention of Free Trade Agreement.

Under the Free Trade Agreement with the USA (AUSFTA), Australian content requirements are capped at the level pertaining at the time of the agreement: viz. 25%. The limit was imposed by the USA and accepted under duress by the Australian government. The requirements for any genre may be changed, as can the ‘new music' requirement, provided that the cap is not exceeded. This percentage cap applies for the period of the agreement, which essentially is open-ended, and thus applies essentially for all time, although that was never even a concept in the discussions leading to its calculation. It should be noted that:

  1. in some other countries with local content requirements, the percentage is much higher.
  2. in many countries, even without the local content requirements, local content is much higher and may make up 80 or 90% of broadcast time. Australian local content levels are among the lowest in the world. Therefore, it would be appropriate to be able to remove the constraint imposed by AUSFTA to allow upwards negotiation of content requirements, even if change is not a foregone conclusion.
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    Broadcasting Act 1992 pp 324 (g)
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