Local pics account for just 4.9% of B.O. last year

SYDNEY — The Australian Film Commission argued that U.S. films dominate the Aussie B.O., grabbing 83.2% of the market last year, in its campaign to protect subsidies and quotas during U.S.-Australia free trade agreement negotiations that kicked off Monday in Washington.

The AFC delegation is meeting with U.S. Trade Office and Motion Picture Assn. officials. It claims that Oz is the most open market in the world to U.S. and other imported programming. Indeed, local pics accounted for just 4.9% of B.O. last year.

The AFC and Oz guilds fear the government may be willing to give Hollywood greater access to film and TV markets, particularly via e-commerce, during the trade negotiations. It argues Australia’s cultural policy could be compromised if digital audiovisual content is included in the e-commerce chapter of a free trade agreement.

“Our real concern is that future generations of Australians have access to minimum levels of Australian content on new services and delivery platforms,” said Kim Dalton, the AFC’s chief exec. “For this to happen, the present and future Australian governments must be able to decide at the appropriate time whether or not to implement regulations and funding mechanisms.”

The AFC is citing a new study by Eurodata TV/Mediametrie that shows Australia is the most open audiovisual market in the world. It found nearly 76% of new TV programs launched Down Under from September 2002-April 2003 were imported, compared with about 9% in the U.K. and Germany, 32% in France and Spain and 17% in Italy.

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