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Nets in discontent

Asia-Pacific b'casters blast sports, U.S. fare

SYDNEY — Speaking for more than 100 Asia-Pacific broadcasters, top brass from Japanese and Australian pubcasters condemned the soaring costs of sports rights and signaled they would be joining such European nations as France in opposing U.S. moves to press for liberalization of global trade in entertainment product at the upcoming World Trade Organization talks.

Addressing last week’s 36th Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union confab, Australian Broadcasting Corp. managing director Brian Johns, in his capacity as union veep, said, “Free trade has enormous benefits and we cannot escape the march of globalism, but globalism cannot be a one-sided affair.”

Local-product crunch

Johns acknowledged that local content was threatened by shrinking foreign sales of indie programming and recommendations by Oz competition regulators that local content quotas be scaled back. But he believes that the biggest threat is posed by “multilateral trade negotiations, underpinned by a type of free-market zealotry that casts a one-dimensional shadow across economic and social development.”

Once they are enacted, warned Johns, “these trade agreements are hard to unwind.” He cited Oz’s trade treaty with New Zealand that unintentionally allowed Kiwi fare to count as Aussie content on Oz webs.

In 1996, the Asia-Pacific region acquired 8%, $287 million, of U.S. audiovisual exports. Oz accounted for 63%, $181 million, of U.S. sales to the region.