It is worth noting that Australians have had to fight to ensure their voice and stories appear on the small screen since the inception of television. The realisation that Australian TV would be dominated by cheaper overseas content was a point of discussion during the 1953 hearings of the Royal Commission into Television.
Melbourne newspaper The Argus on Thursday 21 April 1955 carried an article headed, ‘Actors want TV quotas’.
SYDNEY, Wednesday: The Government should limit overseas productions to 45 per cent of Australia’s television programmes. Mr H Alexander, secretary of Actors’ Equity, said today. Australian artists and productions should make up the other 55 per cent of TV programmes. He said Actors’ Equity would ask the Australian Council of Trade Unions to support the fight for a TV quota. ‘We fear the Australian television market will be flooded with canned entertainment from overseas’, Mr Alexander said.
He was right, Australian TV screens were dominated during the first few years of its existence by productions from the United States and to a lesser extent from England, with shows such as I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, Our Miss Brooks, The Untouchables and 77 Sunset Strip becoming must-watch viewing. Australian content was relegated to cheaper productions, variety, children’s and game shows. It was not until 1959 that the first Australian drama series was broadcast – GTV 9’s medical drama Emergency – and our first strip drama series began on ATN 7, Autumn Affair. It took until 1960 for Australian television’s regulator, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB), to introduce local content requirements, stipulating that 40 per cent of all programs be local, with four hours in prime time per month.
In 1963 the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, chaired by Senator Victor Vincent (known as the Vincent Committee) was established. The report criticised the ABCB for failing to use its powers to enforce local content standards on television broadcasters, particularly the commercial stations. The Vincent Report recommended a sweeping program of reforms, including a call for an Australian drama quota, but sadly no changes resulted, despite urgings from the Producers and Directors’ Guild of Australia.
In 1965 the local content quota was lifted from 40 per cent to 50 per cent but programs from British Commonwealth countries could now be counted as local content. In was not until 1967 that the ABCB introduced a requirement that two hours of local drama be screened on each station each month. And it was to be a decade after the commencement of regular TV transmission that an Australian drama featured in the audience’s top ten television programs, with Homicide (HSV 7 / Crawfords) at number three and My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours (ATN 7) at number ten in 1966.