Oz thesps support content quotas

Actors voice concern over protection of Australian culture on TV

CANBERRA, Australia — Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis are among 50 actors who have written a letter to Australia’s prime minister to support continued content quotas on terrestrial TV.

They were responding to trade minister Mark Vaile’s refusal to annex the current 55% local content requirement to free-trade talks with Washington.

The office of the conservative government minister said it’s premature to begin quarantining cultural products, as with TV quotas or subsidies to the film industry, from talks still in their infancy.

The thesps’ letter backs up calls last month from the Screen Producers Assn. and the Australian Screen Directors Assn. for the government to declare where it stands on protection of Australian culture.

Those calls were prompted by the minister’s declaration, on the eve of a trip to meet with the Bush administration in Washington, that everything would be on the table in the bid to establish a free-trade agreement with the U.S.

With a federal election looming at the end of the year and both key parties in unofficial election mode, the climate is ripe for both lobbying and empty promises.