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’.