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When is content local?

When is content local?

With more programming accessible to global audiences, we need to decide what we mean by local content.

If you are interested in movies, you will probably know all about “Three billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, winning two, and won the award for best film at the British Film and Television Awards (BAFTAs). What you may not know is that it also won the BAFTA for best British film. What, many asked, makes it British? It was filmed and produced in the US and its stars are American, as was virtually all the funding. The writer and director is British but also Irish. A tenuous connection, surely?

Content, and programming in particular, is often a source of national pride, a manifestation of culture and identity. Many countries, and not just developing ones, worry about the threat to local content from “over-the-top” platforms (or, as we should probably call them, “global content providers”). The platforms point out that an increasing part of their output is “local” - Netflix cites original productions emanating from countries including Korea, Japan, India, Brazil and Germany. In some of those cases, viewing has been higher outside the country than within it. So, is this global / local content, or local / global content? And does it even matter? For viewers, not so much. A good cop drama is a good cop drama, and international cop drama has a certain caché.

But for regulators tempted by setting quotas for local content it presents more of a challenge. Some strands – news, current affairs, even game shows – can be readily identified as local (or perhaps local/local). But for international productions, and especially co-productions, the criteria are somewhat murkier. It varies from country to country, even within the European Union, and tax considerations may also have an effect. Without any clear definition it’s no surprise that the platforms themselves are resistant to the idea of quotas. This might just be another example of industry and consumers being ahead of regulators.

andrea millwood hargraveAndrea Millwood Hargrave,
Director General, International Institute of Communications


  • Wednesday, 07 March 2018

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