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Outrageous Decision Angers Writers

Outrageous Decision Angers Writers

[NZWG Media Release – 236 words]

Local television show Outrageous Fortune is causing a trans-Tasman tempest.

The Australian Writers’ Guild (AWG) has challenged a decision by their Nine Network to count Outrageous Fortune as Australian local content.

The New Zealand Writers Guild (NZWG) is supporting this challenge.

“This is as ridiculous as claiming that the All Blacks are an Australian team,” says NZWG Executive Director Dominic Sheehan. “We concur with the AWG – Australian networks shouldn’t use New Zealand programmes to fulfil their quota obligations.”

New Zealand made shows qualify as Australian content under CER. This is a result of a 1997 court decision which followed the Blue Sky initiative, an initiative designed to allow New Zealand made shows to be classed as legally ‘Australian’.

“The NZWG did not support that position then and doesn’t support it now,” confirms Sheehan.

“We don’t believe that Outrageous Fortune should qualify as Australian local content any more than McLeod’s Daughters should be classed as ‘local’ on this side of the Tasman.”

“Our two countries have distinctive cultures and the television shows made by our nations wholeheartedly reflect those differences. Seeing ourselves onscreen is a key component of defining ourselves as a nation. To say that shows can pass as local in both New Zealand and Australia is a nonsense.”

“It is especially ‘outrageous’ that such a quintessentially Kiwi show like Fortune be classed as Australian,” says Sheehan. “What will Australian networks claim as local next? broTown?”

Original AWG press release is below.


MEDIA RELEASE

The Australian Writers' Guild Challenges the Nine Network not to Claim NZ Program as Australian Content

December 15: The Australian Writers' Guild (AWG) today challenged the Nine Network not to claim the New Zealand made program Outrageous Fortune as part of their annual Australian Content Standard quota.

The Nine Network began screening 22 episodes of the New Zealand made, government subsidised drama series on the 11 December. It is understood the network will attempt to have the program qualify for upwards of 20% of its annual quota for Australian drama in a non-rating period, in the 10.30pm timeslot.

The AWG accepts that following the Project Blue Sky Decision of the High Court of Australia in 1997, New Zealand programs can qualify as Australian quota under the Closer Economic Relations Agreement (CER) between the two countries. However, if Nine decides to claim quota points in respect of Outrageous Fortune it will be the first such move by an Australian television broadcaster to represent New Zealand drama on our screens as Australian.

"While technically allowable it goes completely against the spirit and intent of local content regulations," said Jacqueline Woodman, Executive Director of the AWG. "It would indicate a blatant disregard for the health of the Australian industry and an insult to local industry practitioners."

Jo Horsburgh, the Head of Drama at the Nine Network recently stated that Eddie McGuire is "very much behind" increasing Australian drama on air.

"I challenge Mr. McGuire and the Nine Network to really get behind Australian drama by investing in the production of true Australian content rather than spending large sums on overseas programs they only consider fit for 10.30pm in the non-rating season in order to unfairly meet quota requirements," said Woodman.

The AWG in conjunction with its industry partners intends to lobby over the coming months to make local content definition part of policy election platforms in next year's federal election. "New Zealand programs developed with substantial government subsidy should not be used to meet local content requirements. Exploitation of a legal loophole to avoid investing in local industry is not what we expect from a network fighting to be Australia's No.1," said Woodman.

Ends

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