Do Aussies really want Aussie stories?

Two weeks ago an ACMA survey of some 1200 Aussies revealed they supported local content in News, Current Affairs and Reality TV but on the whole preferred overseas dramas due to their higher production values.

Now another survey of 1000 Australians by Screen Australia says we support a local industry with Australian stories.

So who is right?

Probably both. It just depends on the way you look at the findings and, significantly, who is issuing it.

It is in Screen Australia’s interests to trumpet the success of the local industry given it is the key investor in our Drama productions.

Screen Australia found that four out of five respondents believed Australian screen stories were vital to Australia’s sense of national identity and one out of five believed that the most important benefit of these stories was to ‘make sure that Australian culture isn’t overwhelmed by American culture’.

I guess they were different to ACMA’s group who seemingly love Hollywood content.? They barely rated Underbelly or Packed to the Rafters.

Screen Australia’s Chief Executive Ruth Harley said, “This new research demonstrates the value Australians place on Australian content and how important our stories are to the cultural fabric of our society. While we acknowledge the tangible economic benefits of the screen industry, we must also acknowledge the myriad of ways that Australian stories contribute to our social belonging and sense of national identity.”

It wasn’t all bad from the ACMA survey. They did support having a strong production industry as a desirable stepping stone for Australian actors and other talent, and important for Australia’s place in a global market. They also worried about online channels having increased access to overseas content.

Rather than disliking local drama they sounded like they wanted better from our shows, to match overseas production values. Which sort of places the ball back into Screen Australia’s court to up the funding budgets in order to give us higher production values. Are you keeping up?

Meanwhile we also have the ongoing Convergence Review and that risk that the government could raise the limits for overseas actors working here.

A delegation of industry heavyweights including Gillian Armstrong, Stephan Elliott and Sigrid Thornton are visiting Canberra today to voice their support for Australian content on Australian screens.

For the record, I fully support the push for local stories told by local voices and I always will…


  1. It would help if aussie drama didn’t (almost) always consist of cop dramas, hospital dramas or whatever type of drama home and away / neighbors is.

  2. According to Brian Walsh Spiritedseason 1 was “the highest rating drama in the history of Foxtel”. He also stated “Ratings for season2 were down 7%”.
    By that logic one might presume their ratings were still impressive, no?

    • I think presuming ratings based on an Exec’s line is unhelpful. Every Exec talks them up, it’s their job.

      I suspect the first line was made not long after the first season premiere, to talk the the series up. And the second made while the second season was on air (in fact he told me it was down 8% in early September), to also talk it up. But it’s better to look at raw data. If you look at ASTRA ratings for season two, it didn’t do so well… or as Brian Walsh told me, “good but not spectacular.” It’s fine to want the show to return and to sing its praises, this happens all the time, but Foxtel has already got other dramas in the pipeline. As with any supplier a better form of protest is to cancel your service if it is no longer meeting your needs.

  3. You’re Exactly right BM-dog! Australian’s are being force fed a product they don’t want because those sitting up the top in their high chairs do not want to take risks.

    “We are all incredibly surprised that the show has done so well,” Karvan told Mediaweek. “The wisdom in Australia is we don’t do high concept very well and Australian audiences don’t want high concept out of their Australian product. So we were a bit nervous about whether we could break that rule. We seemed to have unearthed a whole lot of extremely passionate supernatural show lovers. Even people who watch shows like Packed To The Rafters and Offspring are tuning in, which is surprising. There is a real oddness to the show. It’s not your normal, straightforward commercial fare.” – Claudia Karvan, Media Week, July 2011

    and sorry (but not really) to keep banging on, but all the articles and literature coming out supports shows like Spirited not being cancelled….baffling!

  4. Australia has always produced good TV – not just drama. I’d dearly love to hear more Australian accents on our TVs and at the cinema. We are very fast losing our own identity to the US and a lot of it is because most of what we are served up is from the States. Just this year we’ve seen 2 excellent Aussie shows – Sea Patrol and Rescue Special Ops end. I’d love to see a better balance of overseas shows between Australian, European, Asian and US. We’re all supposed to live in a Global Village now, so let’s act like it.

  5. There is no reason Australia can’t make good quality dramas because NZ manages to put out consistently better dramas than us. Sure, they churn out some crap too but they do have some great creative shows over there. We just need some creative minds with some influence here!

  6. @ Iolonthe If people had kept watching Crownies ppl would realise it is very well written and crafted! The actors have done a great job!
    I agree not all Aussie Shows are great but some are!

  7. its bad because most aussie writers are the same ones bringing you new series producers in this country need to branch out and find new writers and take some chances instead of giving their mates the jobs because the content is terrible sometimes. but we do produce some really good shows. we just need to nurture our new writers more.

  8. I must say that I have always preferred overseas dramas to Australian productions. Production values are superior, acting is better, storylines are usually always better. On very rare occasions there have been some good Australian dramas but they are few and far between.

  9. @Max Renn
    I was agreeing until the spartacus comment, I enjoy the show but would never say that the acting in very good, certainly not from the aussies.

  10. American cable shows are way beyond the primitive Aussie “dramas”. The writing is just so much better. Aussie actors can be good… given the right material. Look at Spartacus.

  11. Secret Squïrrel

    Agree with most of the comments here. You can make your survey say whatever you want by asking the right (or wrong) questions.

    I’m more than happy to support Australian content but there is very little drama made here that is up to the standards of what plays on US cable – Breaking Bad, Deadwood, Dexter, and the others mentioned are on a completely different level than drivel like Wild Boys or any but the first Underbelly (and that was only good not great). Don’t get me started on unmitigated garbage like Sea Patrol and Cops LAC – they’re not even in the same universe.

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