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TPP Colloquium: Culture

by Jock Given, Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University, Melbourne

Australia’s position on audiovisual and cultural goods and services ranges from agreements preserving extensive powers to implement and adapt policy measures to agreements preserving much more limited powers:

  • WTO: positive list and no commitments (cf. New Zealand’s commitments)
  • Bilateral agreements with Singapore, Thailand, Chile: negative list and broad cultural carve-outs
  • CER and AUSFTA: negative list and limited cultural carve-outs covering listed measures (very limited under CER)
  • SAFTA - Communication Services, and Recreational, Cultural and Sporting Services

Australia reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with respect to:

- the creative arts, cultural heritage and other cultural industries, including audiovisual services, entertainment services and libraries, archives, museums and other cultural services;

- broadcasting and audiovisual services, including measures with respect to planning, licensing and spectrum management, and including:

. services offered in Australia;

. international services originating from Australia.


‘Creative arts’ include: the performing arts – including theatre, dance and music – visual arts and craft, literature, film, television, video, radio, creative on-line content, indigenous traditional practice and contemporary cultural expression, and digital interactive media and hybrid arts work which uses new technologies to transcend discrete artform divisions.

‘Cultural heritage’ includes: ethnological, archaeological, historical, literary, artistic, scientific or technological moveable or built heritage, including the collections which are documented, preserved and exhibited by museums, galleries, libraries, archives and other heritage collecting institutions.

The 'Project Blue Sky' case in the 1990s was a key one in terms of Australia, New Zealand and a common market for media and communications services.

The global market for cultural goods and services



Domestic films’ share of box office in Australia and selected other countries, 2001–2007



New Zealand


NZ: Percentages of total local content hours by channel, 2003-2008 (NZOA 2009)




Total value of trade in royalties from imports and exports of cinema films, TV content and video, 1991/92–2005/06


  • Deficit [Australia], growing, except 2000/01 Sydney Olympics broadcast rights
  • Exports: mainly TV content, growing from 45% of total in 1992/93 to 95% in 2005/06, cinema films’ share dropped from 33 to 4%
  • Imports: more consistent - TV 56-71%, cinema 9-22%, video 17-27%
  • Trading partners:
    • UK: approx 20% of exports from sales to the UK, strengthening in recent years, close to balanced av trade Aust-UK
    • US: estimated export earnings stronger during 1990s, accounting for around a third of total earnings and dropping to approximately 14% since. US imports averaged 65% of total. Significant growth in 1997/98, coinciding with extra content needed for pay TV, remained strong since
    • Others: around 50% of exports, 20% of imports

Value of Australian imports and exports of digital media, 1996/97–2005/06





  • Global AV trade is extensive despite the prevalence of government assistance measures in many countries – government assistance to small country industries generally encourages the creation of material which would not otherwise be made, stimulating rather than impeding trade
  • Small countries are generally net importers – perhaps more so as media have proliferated – more local content but much more international content
  • Australia has performed best in television – where structural and behavioural regulation has supported domestic content

Issues for cultural policy


  • Cross border trade in services
  1. Quotas
  2. Subsidies, grants and tax concessions
  3. Public services and enterprises
  4. International co-production agreements
  5. Indigenous people and activities
  6. Telecommunications universal service arrangements
  7. Spectrum allocation
  8. Immigration
  • Investment
  • Electronic commerce
  • Intellectual property


Emerging issues and perspectives


  • Intellectual property
  1. the ‘innovation’ agenda - hostility to longer copyright terms and stronger anti-piracy protections – user generated content, creators and adaptors
  • Openness vs. protection of cultural markets
  • Online trade – bypassing domestic institutions? eg. broadcasters
  • Telecommunications networks, especially high speed broadband networks:
  1. government investment
  2. mandatory third party access
  3. net neutrality
  • Location-based measures [eg. support for studios like Fox in Sydney, Warner Roadshow at the Gold Coast, Central City Studios in Melbourne]


To what extent are these and other emerging issues and perspectives captured in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions? And what role might it play in trade negotiations?

UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions


Adopted by UNESCO October 2005, entered into force 18 March 2007


98 parties at 15 June 2009, out of 193 members and 6 associates:

  • including Chile (R), New Zealand (A), Peru (A), Vietnam (R)
  • excluding Australia, Brunei, Singapore, United States


Seeks to strengthen cultural creation, production, distribution, access and enjoyment of cultural expressions as conveyed by cultural activities, goods and services. In particular:

  • reaffirm the sovereign right of States to draw up cultural policies
  • recognize the specific nature of cultural goods and services as vehicles of identity, values and meaning
  • strengthen international cooperation and solidarity so as to favour the cultural expressions of all countries


One of the ‘three pillars of the preservation and promotion of creative diversity’, with the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) and the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, this Convention (2003).


Detailed provisions and relationship to trade agreements …


International Fund for Cultural Diversity

  • Total contributions US$1.3 million at June 2009
  • Major donors: Canada $495,000 plus Québec $98,000, Spain $259,000, France $229,000, Finland $57,000, Brazil $50,000



Given, J. 2004, ‘“Not unreasonably denied”: Australian content after AUSFTA’, Media International Australia, no. 111(May), pp. 8-22.


Malbon, J. 2004, ‘The Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement: trade trumps indigenous interests’, Media International Australia, no. 111(May), pp. 34-45.


NZ On Air 2009, New Zealand Television Local Content 2008, Wellington: NZOA (April).


O’Regan, T. 2004, ‘The utility of a global forum: UNESCO’s significance for communications, culture and ICTs’, Media International Australia, no. 111(May), pp. 63-80.


Project Blue Sky:

Australian Broadcasting Authority v Project Blue Sky Inc & Ors [1996] FCA 1087 (12 December 1996) [Full Court]


Project Blue Sky Inc, Top Shelf Productions Ltd, Communicado Limited, South Pacific Pictures Limited, Gibson Group Limited and Frame Up Films Ltd v Australian Broadcasting Authority [1996] FCA 1675 (2 August 1996)


Screen Australia 2008, Flexible Vision v.2.0: a compendium of new and emerging content delivery platforms and government interventions, Sydney: Screen Australia.


Smiers, J. 2004, A convention on cultural diversity: from WTO to UNESCO’, Media International Australia, no. 111(May), pp. 81-96.


UNESCO 2005, ‘Ten Keys to the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions’, UNESCO, Paris.


UNESCO 2005, Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Paris: UNESCO (20 October).


Voon, T. 2007, Cultural Products and the World Trade Organisation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 02:07

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