The 2012 Convergence Review
In late 2011 and early 2012, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy conducted a Review of Convergence. The Convergence Review Committee released an Interim Report in December which inspired this article and the linked material shown below.1
Central to the terms of reference for the Review is the government’s objective to foster the production of Australian content and to ensure Australian audiences are able to access adequate levels of Australian content.
The Music Council has recommended that Australia either implement or retain the right to implement quotas in broadcasting to the extent allowable within the provisions of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA), and to monitor developments in broadcasting-like services to determine, in a rapidly evolving environment, whether it will be possible or desirable to regulate broadcasting-like services delivered online.
The Convergence Review Report has flagged support for a shift over time from the use of quotas to the introduction of an expenditure requirement. If this occurs, it is likely to profoundly affect levels of Australian content in broadcasting and represent the biggest shift in government broadcasting policy since 1942. This history of Australian content in commercial broadcasting has, until now, been a history of regulation.
The Convergence Review was undertaken against a background of dramatic changes in the music industry.
In film and television, a mix of subsidies, tax offsets and quotas prevail. These mechanisms are intended to make production possible and to support productions that are Australian (other than location incentives designed to attract offshore production). However, in the underpinning regulation that determines definitions of “Australian”, Australian music is a consideration but it is not a determining factor.
Music does not enjoy the same level of government support as is enjoyed by film and television. Whilst governments provide support for orchestras, some support for other music genres and some funds are available to assist touring, the quantum pales into insignificance when compared with support for the audiovisual sector. The most important government intervention in supporting recorded music is the current music quotas in commercial radio broadcasting – a mechanism that is now being questioned with its extension to digital radio deferred for three years.
New MCA research undertaken for its http://www.mca.org.au/research/research-reports/research-reports/19408-music-and-the-media-government-regulation-in-australia-and-abroad- Music and Media Symposium in April 2012 is contained in the following four linked articles:
- Broadcasting Content Quotas – An International Overview
- The Role of Music Quotas in Radio
- Content Quotas for Television and Eligibility for Subsidy for Film and Television
- The Music Industry and the Regulatory Environment
These papers provide information about how government interventions operate in an attempt to highlight how they might be improved to the advantage of Australian music:
- from the seemingly minor (amending the definition of an Australian television commercial to give greater emphasis to music) to the rollout of further content quotas in digital television and radio;
- from the extension of the Producer Offset that applies for films and certain television program types to musical live theatre and recorded music to the possibility of amending the eligibility criteria for research and development tax deductibility;
- to the possibilities of government-supported micro-financing or matching funds raised through crowd sourcing; among others.
It also looks at how quotas and other government support mechanisms are utilised in selected overseas jurisdictions.
Lynn Gailey. Original version 20 March 2012; presented in shorter sections for the knowledge base 17 June 2012.
- The Final Report was published in May 2012 following review by the Minister. It will be used to update this article in due course. ED↩︎