Trade Liberalisation and Australia's Television Cultural Policy: Power and Interest in National Television Policy

University of Westminster
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, 2007, 4 (3), pp. 46 - 66
Issue Date:
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In the development of national television policy Australian governments have placed considerable importance on the television system reflecting national culture. Commercial television is regulated for minimum levels of Australian content and direct subsidy is available for the production of certain types of content. Yet, despite this the participation of Australia in recent international trade agreements has constrained the power of the state to act in this area of national television policy. This paper examines the Australia US Free Trade Agreement and the Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement with New Zealand for their impact on national television cultural policy. The paper proceeds from the proposition that policy change involves the exercise of power by organised groups within the policy domain, who seek to influence the terms of the policy development. It identifies Australian commercial broadcasters, Australian television producers and workers, foreign production industry groups and foreign governments as actors in this policy domain. It argues that each had differential power to influence the outcomes of the process of policy change and decision making by the state, but that willingness to exercise that power depended on their interest in intervening. Australian producers/workers had the most interest, but their power was weaker relative to that of commercial broadcasters. In comparison, the broadcasters and the USA had stronger power but only the USA was willing to exercise it to change Australia s television cultural policy.
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