The Role of Music Quotas in Radio

Logo mapping.jpg

Commentary

Most discussion of content quotas covers all broadcasting quotas and tends to concentrate on television. Three relatively recent papers look at the Australian experience of music quotas on radio and the Australian experience compared with selected countries.

In October 2003, Paul Mason concluded[1]:

Certainly it can be established that radio airplay has a clear effect on the production and consumption of music and as such, requirements for the broadcast of local music can be used as an efficient means of stimulating and maintaining local musical practice.

However, it would appear that simply meeting an agreed target may not always be enough.

As such, use of local content requirements as a means of supporting local musical practice, would only appear to be effective if they are regularly monitored for compliance and effect, and if the ability to amend the requirements relative to changes in broadcasting and musical practice is maintained.

It may be that future discussions around the role of local content requirements should not focus simply on the quantity of local music broadcast, but rather seek to identify areas of local music practice that may require more support and determine how this can be meaningfully achieved through greater airplay.

Richard Letts, October 2003[2], Music Council of Australia:

Despite considerable differences between the jurisdictions, in all five:

  • "The recording and broadcast industries are extremely important to music"
  • There are both government and privately owned radio stations
  • All except Germany have local content quotas for radio, whether enforced or not.
  • All are signatories to international copyright conventions
  • All are committed to "the expansion of international free trade" but argue that
  • "Culture is not a good or service to be traded like any other." Nonetheless, only Germany and Australia (at the time, 2003) were committed to cultural exemptions in trade agreements.

Note: In 2003, the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions had not yet been formulated. It was subsequently voted in by the UNESCO General Assembly and now, other than The Philippines, all are now signatories to the Convention.[3]

Shane Homan, 2011 (Local priorities, industry realities: the music quota as cultural exceptionalism (Media, Culture and Society), abstract:

"This article examines cultural quota debates in the context of local music content provision in Australia and New Zealand. The commercial radio industries in both countries are examined for the different ways in which the local music industries attempt to negotiate changing perceptions of the “national” in the shift from analogue to digital media environments. A call for new configurations of local media as cultural exception is made, given the profound shifts in global cultural trade and digital media spheres where reliance upon older notions of cultural nationalism are less stable."

Australia — Radio

AMPCOM
A music content regulation timeline for commercial radio broadcasters in Australia is at Appendix B of Broadcasting Content Quotas — Appendices. It should be noted that Australia led the way with music quotas on radio, the first being implemented in 1942. It took Canada another three decades to follow suit. France followed the Canadian model years later.

In 1992, the new Broadcasting Services Act made local content quotas for radio part of a self-regulatory (now called ‘co-regulatory’) code for commercial and community broadcasters. In so doing, it did not change the nature of the measure – it is considered a government intervention as its existence is contained within the provisions of the Act.

Broadcasters are required to report compliance with the Code of Practice to the Australian Music Performance Committee (AMPCOM).[4] The 2010-11 Annual Report includes the text of the Code at pp. 3 – 6. In brief, the Code provides for a number of music categories which attract different quotas.

Does the Code of Practice Work?

Compliance results are reported to AMPCOM by Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) and published annually. The results for 2010-11 are included in AMPCOM’s Annual Report at pages 7 – 11.

The data is not subject to independent scrutiny. It is a self-reporting exercise taken at face value. This paper takes the results at face value.

As can be seen, other than for a handful of broadcasters whose data was not available, all achieved the necessary quotas. While some barely exceeded quotas, others exceeded them considerably.

While some commentators and stakeholders argue that quotas are not necessary because of the sector’s commitment to Australian music and the fact that quotas are met, it is possible that in the absence of quotas, those reporting Australian music compliance at or marginally above the required quota may not deliver the same outcome.

Some stations meet the quota for new Australian music. Some exceed the quota requirement by 10% or more. Some exceed the quota by considerable margins – for example, B104.9 FM Albury and Hot 103.5 Cairns must meet a quota of 20% for new music yet averaged 58.33% and 40.37% respectively. Sydney’s 2DAY FM, Melbourne’s FOX FM and Brisbane’s B105 FM with a quota of 25% averaged 75.03%, 66.78% and 70.80% respectively.

In the face of the results for new Australian music it is difficult to assert as Commercial Radio Australia has that there are difficulties in finding sufficient new music of appropriate quality for broadcast.

Can the Code be of Practice be Changed? Should it be Changed?

Matters for consideration:

  • Under the provisions of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, Annex II, Schedule of Australia, p. 6, (AUSFTA), music quotas can be retained for free-to-air radio broadcasting, whether analogue or digital. However, the threshold is capped at 25%. In the event the quotas are lowered, they cannot again be increased. In the event the quotas are removed, they cannot be reintroduced. It is highly likely that imposing an expenditure requirement on broadcasters in the place of quotas would offend the AUSFTA. Direct government subsidy to support the sector is, however, permissible.
  • In 2010, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) acceded to submissions from Commercial Radio Australia (CRA) to not extend quotas to new digital only radio services. The matter is to be revisited in early 2013.
  • In a submission to the Convergence Review, (Commercial Radio Australia, 28 October 2011, Submission to the Convergence Review, pp.26-27), CRA argued that:
    • It is unsustainable and inequitable for free-to-air commercial radio broadcasters to be subject to Australian music quotas when internet-only services and streamed content provided by telecommunications companies and others are not subject to the same degree of intervention. To this end, CRA supports the removal of the Australian music content quota requirement in respect of commercial broadcasters and believes that greater effort needs to be expended at the production level to ensure that a wide range of quality Australian music content continues to remain both available and attractive to music consumers.
    • However, if the Australian music content quota is to be retained, we consider that it may be useful expanding this requirement to other platforms that have a minimum specified take up rate (e.g. Australia based online music services) as a means of ensuring a greater level of regulatory balance between platforms. This requirement should not otherwise apply to ‘personalised’ communications, such as ‘on demand’ music download services.
    • While the commercial broadcast radio industry strongly supports Australian music, the ability to meet any Australian music content quota requirements is heavily dependent on the production and availability of quality Australian music. In this regard, CRA strongly believes that greater effort needs to be expended at the production level to ensure that a wide range of quality Australian music content continues to remain both available and attractive to music consumers.
  • Apart from CRA, other submissions to the Review arguing against content quotas include Telstra, the Communications Alliance, Southern Cross Austereo ("While SCA supports the Australian music industry", it considers current local content regulations should be dropped "because radio-like services are not regulated and opposes extending current local content regulations to radio-like services."), and ASTRA (does not support extending quotas to narrowcast radio services) among others. [5]
  • Other submitters to the Convergence Review argued for the retention of music quotas for radio including the Music Council, Media Wave (which argued against Telstra’s opposition to quotas in favour of Australian content regulation being applied "to the program inventories of all major Australian-based content aggregators"), the Australia Council, APRA|AMCOS, the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, and the ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology (pointing out despite many submissions arguing "against the extension of Australian content rules to convergent platforms, recent research by the ACMA shows high levels of support for Australian content rules for the Internet." (84% saying it was somewhat/quite/very important — compare 92% for television — and the highest support for Internet rules was found in the 18-29 group) and supporting Media Wave’s call for a quota of around 25% being incrementally "imposed on the inventories of all Australian-based content aggregators").
  • Some submissions called for quotas to be replaced with government subsidy to support production, quotas to be replaced with expenditure requirements and the like.
  • The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, on p 13 of the Interim Report of the Convergence Review observed:
    • Australian music quota requirements currently apply to analog music radio stations. A number of submissions have called for these quotas to be extended to digital radio stations and to internet radio services, consistent with the principle of regulatory parity.
    • Whilst this principle is valid, some digital radio services are developed for specific events, for example to cover tours by popular musicians, and some internet services are user directed. A recommendation on this issue will be made in the final report.
  • In the face of the results for new Australian music (see above) it is difficult to assert, as Commercial Radio Australia has, that there are difficulties in finding sufficient new music of appropriate quality for broadcast. Industry figures informally dispute assertions that production standards are inadequate.
  • Shane Homan, in "Local priorities, industry realities: the music quota as cultural exceptionalism" (Media, Culture and Society, 2011), questions whether it is possible to accept CRA’s avowed support for Australian music in the face of continued calls for abolition of the quota and when its Chief Executive Officer "believes provision of Australian music is forced supply".
  • Quotas are a measure consistent with the provisions of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (20 October 2005), to which Australia is a party and which requires parties to foster their cultural sectors. In AUSFTA), music quotas can be retained for free-to-air radio broadcasting, whether analogue or digital. However, the threshold is capped at 25%. In the event the quotas are lowered, they cannot again be increased. In the event the quotas are removed, they cannot be reintroduced. It is highly likely that imposing an expenditure requirement on broadcasters in the place of quotas would offend the AUSFTA. Direct government subsidy to support the sector is, however, permissible.

References

  1. Assessing the impact of Australian music requirements for radio, Music Council of Australia
  2. The Effects of Globalization on Music in Five Contrasting Countries. Australia, Germany, Nigeria, The Philippines and Uruguay
  3. See list of parties here.
  4. AMPCOM is comprised of representatives of Commercial Radio Australia and the music industry.
  5. Submissions to the Convergence Review in response to its open call for submissions can be found at [1] and in response to the Interim Report at [2]. Very brief summaries of submissions made in response to the open call have been compiled by the Music Council and can be made available if desired.


Author

Lynn Gailey, 20 March 2012.

Share your opinion