Government interference is blamed for the plight of Aussie tv in a recent industry study by the Melbourne research group Mintel.
Commissioned for a subscriber base that includes banks, economists, stockbrokers and corporate clients, the report reveals that the federal government has been “increasing license fees at a rate greater than inflation” and that “overly stringent Australian content requirements” have caused programming policy changes that have resulted in viewer and advertiser attrition.
Program spending by Aussie stations rose from $A713.4 million to $A991.2 million (nearly 40%) 1987 to 1988 and the following year. In ’87 to ’88, some $A126 million was for overseas product (mainly U.S.), but in ’88 to ’89, that figure almost doubled to $A251 million.
According to Mintel, the high cost of locally made drama and comedy has driven the commercial webs toward news, pub affairs and sports. Concurrently, the increased price of foreign-made programs meant that “[the networks] turned increasingly to in-house, low-budget material as a stopgap.” This, it said, resulted in a turnoff for viewers and advertisers alike.
In its report, Mintel all but exonerates the entrepreneurs who briefly owned the networks and drove many stations into debt.
Mintel finds that the Aussie tv industry’s astonishing 1989 implosion began in Canberra in 1985 when the government started eroding tax incentives for film and tv production.
One aspect of the survey was an international comparison of advertising expenditures that showed Australia second only to Japan in per capita tv ad spending. Australia spends about $A1.4 billion a year on tv advertising. This represents about 0.44% of Gross Domestic Product, compared with the U.S. figure of about 0.7% of GNP on tv spots.
While the Japanese paid $A91 per head of population for their commercials, Aussies spent $A82 and Americans a mere $A14 each per year.