Australian content yes, but not so hot on drama…

Australians support the need for local content on TV, especially in news, current affairs and Reality TV, but international dramas with higher production values appeal to them more than local dramas according to a report by the industry watchdog.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found Australian television, as a whole, struggled to compete with high-quality production dramas and soaps from overseas.

While focus groups enjoyed watching such shows as MasterChef, Today Tonight, A Current Affair, Home and Away, Neighbours and Australia’s Got Talent, there was little praise for dramas such as Packed to the Rafters, Underbelly or Sea Patrol.

But there was praise for Reality shows because viewers could imagine themselves or their friends as being in the series.

It’s a curious result, especially as there are two dramas given the thumbs up.

They were the findings of ACMA research into Australians’ attitudes and expectations about media content issues and their regulation.

Here are the findings regarding Australian content on Aussie TV:

Focus group participants recognised the importance of Australian content on broadcast television, for continuity of the local production industry as well as to foster a sense of Australian cultural identity. Many focus group participants were aware of rules about the amount of Australian content on television, and this fact was not surprising to other participants who did not know.

Having a strong production industry was seen as a desirable stepping stone for Australian actors and other talent, and important for Australia’s place in a global market.

Participants’ personal preference for Australian content was clear when there was direct relevance or a local need or interest; for example, news and information and Australian versions of reality television shows. However, they were aware of the threat to the industry of increasing access to professionally produced content online, such as movies and drama series from overseas sources, providing increased competition for similar Australian material.

Current affairs, soaps and reality television were the first Australian programs to come to mind in focus groups. Participants frequently identified MasterChef, Today Tonight, A Current Affair, Home and Away, Neighbours and Australia’s Got Talent as Australian content they enjoyed watching. There was little spontaneous mention of Australian drama series such as Packed to the Rafters, Underbelly or Sea Patrol.

Participants believed that Australian shows may struggle if online channels increased access to overseas professional content. Despite endorsing the idea of Australian content, most participants claimed to prefer overseas series due to their perceived higher production values. They felt that Australian television, as a whole, struggled to compete with high-quality production dramas and soaps from overseas.

Reality television was regarded differently to drama. Given that this genre is about everyday people pursuing a dream or being part of a competition, participants explained they needed to imagine it could be them, or their neighbour or friend. An Australian version of this type of program, while not necessary, could significantly enhance the viewing experience as participants were more likely to connect to the Australian ‘reality stars’.

24 Comments:

  1. 3 Australian Dramas have been axed for next year. I loved Rush but now that has gone. Will channel 10 repeat NCIS, Law and Order etc in its replace. Or does realtiy tv take over for another hour of tv – much cheaper to run. All tv channels should be made to how a certan amount of Australian Drama per year. The other problem we have limited Australian Drama and when we do they are all on at the same time competing against each other.

    Speaking to people the amount of commercials now being shown are putting people of watching television. The other bug bear is the late start of shows. If you want to complain to the television station – you can’t there is no email address.

    I was so annoyed with Ten for axing the Late News and Sports tonight I rang but the only response I got was they let the newsroom know of my complaint. How do management know what the consumers want if they don’t take complaints. The ABC was onceq a leader in its field but how many times can you show the same show in one year. Saturday night has been a disgrace with most of them being repeats.

    How can Lachlan Murdoch be on the board of Ten and making decisions about this company when he has a major interest in Foxtel. There has to be a conflict of interest. Foxtel got the rights for the AFL – ten did not even really compete for them. Ten will have hardly any sport next year.

  2. I think the trouble with Australian TV is the actors. There’s only so many times you can see on particular actor in everything Australian.

    More unknowns need to be given a go.

    Law and Order: Australia needs to be made.

    Sea Patrol had high production values, I thought Rush did for a while but then again maybe it is the fecal storylines it subsequently went with.

  3. Sorry again David. It’ll hopefully be short.

    @ jack

    I just want to add the main channels in Australia aren’t in the habit these days of starting on time. I’ve heard they can start anywhere from 5 – 40 minutes late. Sometimes more. Now if they were regularly 3 minutes late that would be OK as they’d cancel each other out. But they aren’t so it’s a big turn off for me. It’s why I’m not unhappy missing their unreliability most of the time. So I have to be extremely interested in something to bother watching them. Australian TV doesn’t seem worth it.

  4. If you’d solely survey ABC or SBS viewers, you’d probably find the same responses. Aussie productions (drama, comedies, non-fiction) always seem to look cheap.

  5. Who in their right mind watches Home and Away.My tip is to find a shop that sells DVD sets of the original 90210,Degrassi and other similar type shows and watch those if you want quality drama.Sorry Everyone but in that area you can’t beat the Americans,Canadians and to a small degree British.

    I don’t mind Winners and Losers though and hate the critics that call it a poor imitation of Sex and the City.They obviously have no idea.The Aussie show is more realistic than those four what would be by now Middle Aged Manhattan women

  6. The Slap is not shaping up to be as good as predicted. The 1st episode was good….but the 2nd episode really had nothing to do with the actual slap….episode 3 may get back on track….I’ve taped it so I’ll watch tonight….

  7. I’m British not Australian. And I would much rather sit down in front of Packed To The Rafters, Off Spring, Winners and Losers, The Slap, Underbelly Razor or whatever else than I ever would shows from my own country and esspecially shows from the states! (The accent gets on my nerves and I think Australian productions are easier for poms to relate too).

    Why? They are once weekly, up to 15-22 episodes which is just the right amount. They have good actors and they are made about average people (like the Rafters) that are easy to relate too.

    @ A. you say you liked Sea Change and you like something kwirky and historic not like Cop/Medical dramas. Well Thats what you got! Now Blue Heelers and All Saints RIP are all over and done with, you have dramas like Underbelly and Wild Boys- historic. PTTR- Kwirky. And The Slap which is novel based. Even Winners and Losers isnt bad, likeable characters, character based, stories you care about.

    In my mind Australian drama was great when Sea Change came about, you had that, BH and All Saints to keep you amused then wonderful McLeod’s Daughters came a long, but 2006-2010 everything went downhill everything started getting axed ect. But over the past two years things have really picked up, Packed To the Rafters brought us character based stories and things that you cared about ( Like MD and BH used too) Winners and Losers did the same as did Off Spring. Then there was Underbelly which catered for the true crime genre. Really Aussie drama hasn’t been as good as it is now for quite some time, possiably for ten years.

  8. Another option would be if they either do a mix of what the British do or the Americans I guess depending on the economics. Either try a 6-13 episode first season then expand it based on its popularity. That way if something is a dud then they don’t have to spend more money on it so they could try something new. If it is popular or critically acclaimed then they could do the over 20 episodes for the other seasons/series . I don’t know how much more expensive that would be. Although the Americans often order 13 episodes and then add a back 6 or 9 or whatever they want. What limits that option for Australia?

  9. why dont Aus Networks do the UK thing and produce 6-8 episodes seasons ? even 12 would be good, they can spend more money per ep and still be kinda cheap plus they would be able to make more shows per year, i mean who wants to watch 26 episode of Crownies?

  10. The Slap, City Homicide, Rush, Crownies, Rake. Great shows. Rafters used to be good. We make plenty of good drama, people just decide not to watch and would rather watch trash.

    Says a lot about the group they interviewed if they identified TT and ACA as must watch tv.

    And what a wonderful research from ACMA. When will they actually do something useful.

  11. The problem is the lack of originality. There is little imagination, and a real apprehension to try something different. The exception has to be ABC’s The Slap. Unfortunately the commercial networks r only interested in making a profit, so they r not going to invest in an unknown product. So expect more programs like PTTR . Wild Boys had promise, but the script and acting is lousy.

  12. “While focus groups enjoyed watching such shows as MasterChef, Today Tonight, A Current Affair, Home and Away, Neighbours and Australia’s Got Talent”

    Im sorry, but where on earth were these focus groups held? Frankston? Rooty Hill?

  13. The problem I have is that alot of Australian production isn’t ‘glamorous’

    American Tv always looks sleek and polished which I like. Sometimes our efforts look really gritty on purpose to give a more realistic tone which I don’t think works. If people want to watch fiction then they don’t want to see something that could be happening right next door. Hope that all makes sense

  14. Those are some very odd results, considering (like the article said) the people surveyed include Neighbours and Home and Away as shows they like watching – and then say they don’t watch Australian dramas. (Unless they count drama and soaps are different things.) And what about Packed the Rafters?

    Oh, and Jake, was it really necessary to have another dig at Neighbours? You don’t like the show, we get it.

  15. Hello!? What about Aussie dramas like Rake, Rush, Crownies and The Slap (I realise some are new this year, but the ABC does produce quality drama.
    I really don’t get why ‘higher production values’ makes such a big difference. I watch aussie Dramas to see my local actors in gripping roles. But then I, unlike the majority appear to enjoy supporting my local culture, television industry and don’t get me started on the music industry! (Why don’t TV networks license more local music to advertise their shows?) Credit must go to the ABC for the use of Jungle by Emma Louise in promos for The Slap.
    We live in Australia and need to support our Aussie industries more! Thanks to those that do 🙂

  16. I’ll admit for myself they rarely if ever make the sort of drama I’m interested in. But I don’t claim to always have popular tastes. The last long running Australian series I liked was Sea Change. I’m just not into Soaps, Contemporary, Medical or Emergency Services and the like (I watched them in the 20th Century a lot ) . I’m into more quirky, historical or genre based fare. The one thing I do look forward to next year is Phryne Fisher. I just hope they don’t kill it on a Thursday and repeat it at a stupid time on Friday. Basically I’d love it on a Sunday at 7.30 or 8.30pm time depending what’s appropriate. I also like the docu-dramas on the ABC. Also the serious news and current affairs programmes too including SBS. Plus documentaries. I tried some Reality shows and they don’t interest me.

  17. Armchair Analyst

    Its not just the low quality in production, thats why i would like to see more mergers in the tv and film production sector similar to the one of Global Tv and Cutting Edge. It is also the fact that australian tv producers and creaters have run out of ideas for shows, that is the real problem. Even american shows get canned or not picked up not even for a pilot if the idea is crap. The low production is part of the problem but also the ideas are bad.

  18. Of course Australians prefer “American dramas with higher production values than local dramas” because Australia keeps making celluloid fodder such as Neigh-bores. Nobody in their right mind would prefer watching Neigh-bores over quality American shows such as Parenthood, NCIS, etc etc etc…..

  19. I think the issue with drama relates to quantity over quality. The US drama shows have bigger budgets and employ a large number of people to keep the quality up over 22 episodes, even then they often struggle and a series can run out of steam after a few seasons. The UK dramas tend to be a short number of episodes often between 6-8 and they ahve the budgets to keep the quality up. So when Aussie networks are trying to produce a show with 15-22 eps without a big budget per ep….well the quality is always going to suffer. Better to churn out 10-12 eps of highly viewable quality than 22 below par….

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