Since the advent of broadcasting, around the world jurisdictions have responded to what has been considered by almost all governments to be the pervasiveness of the broadcast media. There have been a variety of responses. Totalitarian regimes and countries with exclusively state owned media have typically responded by controlling the media and thus determining what can be broadcast. There is an important distinction between the objectives and methods of these governments with regard to broadcast media and those of liberal democracies and their public broadcasters at arm’s length from government.
Countries with massive domestic markets like the United States and India have considered there is no need to protect the output of their cultural sectors and have not introduced content regulation. Indeed, in the case of the United States, introducing content quotas appears to offend the First Amendment of the US Constitution. A concise explanation sourced from Wikipedia is at Appendix A. Other countries have responded with measures that include content quotas, direct subsidy, taxation concessions and the establishment of publicly funded broadcasters. Many have used a mix of measures.
A time line of music content regulation on radio in Australia is at Appendix B. A time line of content regulation for television broadcasting (together with the introduction of subsidy and other support measures) in Australia is at Appendix C.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) monitors all sectors where domestic regulation might, in the view of the United States, impede free trade – or put another way, might impede America’s capacity to export. Below is a summary of content quotas around the world drawn from the USTR National Trade Estimate Report 2010.
Full extracts from the Report in respect of audiovisual services and broadcasting for those countries to which the USTR has drawn attention is at Appendix D.
Additionally, and the following cannot be read as being comprehensive, other countries have utilised content quotas.
Germany considered introducing a music quota on radio in 2001 but it was rejected. The industry was seeking “a 50% quota for new releases, with 50% of that songs being sung in German.” In 2003, Nigeria reportedly had an 80% music quota apparently met by government but not private radio stations. Also, in 2003, the Philippines had a reportedly unenforced requirement that radio stations with a music format play at least four original Filipino compositions an hour. At that time bills were before the Senate variously to increase the existing requirement, and extend it to television and music in public places. Whilst Uruguay has had music content quotas for radio, they had not been enforced. .
Along with many others countries in the region, the media in Brunei is government owned and controlled. Unusually and perhaps because of its small population, Brunei earlier this century set itself a local content target of 60% for Radio Television Brunei. It is not clear whether this has been achieved but it is no longer listed as an aspiration on its website. Certainly the schedule indicates a high level of local content mixed with Malay content.
In 1997, South Africa adopted The South African Music Local Content Regulation "which requires at least 20% of music broadcast from 5 a.m. – 11 p.m. to be from South Africa and to be fairly evenly distributed during that time period." Local content quotas were amended and increased in 2003 — 35% for commercial television broadcasters, 55% for public service broadcasters with subquotas along the lines of those in Australia, and 8% for terrestrial subscription services. The quota for commercial radio rose from 20 to 25%.
Chilean law gives the Consejo Nacional de Television de Chile the right to require up to 40 per cent of programming on free to air television to be Chilean production. This requirement has to be mandated through a Consejo resolution but since it was introduced into law in 1989, it has never been adopted given that local content has always exceeded 40 per cent. According to the exchange of letters in the US-Chile Free Trade Agreement, local content has been more than 50 per cent on average. Local content is monitored annually by taking a two month sample.
According to Bernier, Argentina, Costa Rica and Korea also have content quotas for television. It appears that the Argentinean quota operates in a similar fashion to the Chilean quota.
Notwithstanding the size and homogeneity of its domestic market, Japan has also embraced content regulation. Local stations must broadcast at least ten percent self-produced programming. Ten percent of all programming screened by commercial channels must be education programs and a further 20 percent must be dedicated to cultural programs. Like the United States, Japan is a homogenous market with seemingly small appetite for foreign television programs. Approximately 95 per cent of all programming on terrestrial television is Japanese.
A standout example is New Zealand. A developed country with a small population and consequently a small domestic market where a government, committed to trade liberalization, the free market and domestic deregulation, made commitments in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) that prevented the incoming Clark Government from introducing quotas. Several attempts to work a way through the impasse failed, with the United States repeatedly pointing out quotas would infringe New Zealand’s GATS commitments, UNESCO, n.d.An example case: New Zealand and local radio quotas; Helen Clark, 2002, Address delivered at a jointly convened UNESCO and UNEP high-level Roundtable held on 3 September 2002 in Johannesburg during the World Summit on Sustainable Development, published in Cultural Diversity and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development, p. 31.
In summary, it can thus be recorded that a stated policy of a newly elected government could not be put into action because an earlier government had thwarted this very measure through relevant GATS concessions, with the potential contravention against GATS being pointed out both from within and without .... This is a problem, moreover, that exists not only in relation to the GATS but also with regard to all international agreements that restrict national political autonomy.’
Only a relatively few countries have made commitments in GATS in the audiovisual sector. The only one to do so in respect of radio prior to GATS entering into force was the US. Some have made commitments of a very limited nature. Australia made a commitment covering “services by advertising agencies in creating and placing advertising in periodicals, newspapers, radio and television for clients; outdoor advertising; media representation i.e. sale of time and space for various media; distribution and delivery of advertising material or samples.” Does not include production or broadcast/screening of advertisements for radio, television or cinema.
Of those countries that have made audiovisual sector commitments, many are as limited as Australia’s.
As noted above, alongside quotas, governments have used a range of mechanisms to support local content. Alongside public broadcasting and regulation of commercial broadcasting, many governments support the production of local content through direct subsidy – grants and investment – and indirect subsidy, often administered through the taxation system. Others establish hypothecated funds to create dedicated finance pools to support production, for example, by utilising income from spectrum auctions, levies on broadcasters, media mergers and acquisitions and so on. Yet others offer at a state or national level incentives to attract offshore production to their territory to drive local employment.
In most developed countries – notably other than the United States – governments support public broadcasting again with a range of finance models. Some allow a mixed model of direct government appropriation along with advertising revenue – like the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) in Australia. Some European countries and the United Kingdom use licence fees. Greece uses a tax on electricity.. Others like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in Australia are funded by direct government appropriation.
In some countries, local content quotas apply to public broadcasters as well as to commercial broadcasters.
In Australia, there are no content quotas for public broadcasters but expectations are set out in their enabling legislation. In the case of National Indigenous Television (NITV), objectives are contained in its Constitution.
The ABC Charter requires the broadcaster ‘to provide within Australia innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard’ and:
inform and entertain, and reflect the cultural diversity of, the Australian community; and
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983, s 6 Charter of the Corporation (1).
The SBS Charter states: “The principal function of the SBS is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians, and, in doing so, reflect Australia’s multicultural society.” Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991, s 6 Charter of the SBS, (1).
NITV was “established to carry on the business of developing and producing television content that informs, entertains and educates Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and to commission particularly from Indigenous producers and Indigenous media organisations The Constitution of National Indigenous TV Limited, Clause 5.
Lynn Gailey. 20 March 2012.