Thursday, March 20, 2003

A private joke,8659,6154845-23209,00.html

The legal and moral fallout from a “private joke” being broadcast always gets far too much attention paid to the “private” bit. A joke – if it is truly a joke – is a robust thing, capable of being seen for what it is well beyond its intended or original audience. The actual humour may, of course, be heavily diluted in such a new context, but – as the motto goes – the joke remains the same.


Home, Maquiladora and Away,5744,6151712%255E2702,00.html

Australian local content rules – film and television production subsidies and television quotas – have been under a Damoclean sword for years. This latest development is a narrowing-down to bilateral Australia-USA negotiations, so moving the hydra-headed, shadowplay battle, of entertainment industry globalisation vs the need to maintain a distinctive Australian voice, to the sidelines.

Which is undoubtedly a step forward, in my book. Apart from the delicious prospect of, say, being able to trade-off Home and Away for the right to flog pig’s trotters tariff-free in Iowa, this sleeves-rolled-up, tit-for-tat argy-bargying allows the American entertainment industry to be put under the due diligence microscope.

This is a surprisingly sensitive topic for me, because it heavily concerns unionisation (ordinarily, a very good thing). In a nutshell, US showbiz is highly unionised (in terms of both employee and producer combines, which are in practice, of course, highly symbiotic). Australian showbiz, in contrast, operates more by a grace and favour system of state and corporate patronage.

Neither industry model is even close to non-deceptively being able to use the adjective in “free trade”. The Australian model’s uncompetitiveness is entrenched by three decades of baby boomer co-option, self-interest and flawless politicking, while the US system’s bloated cost base has lead to the mass export of production grunt work (to pseudo-glamorous maquiladoras, like Sydney) without anything otherwise changing back home.

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