Australia counts New Zealand TV shows as local content

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SYDNEY -- An all-out war between Australian and New Zealand TV programmers is set to erupt following a ruling in the Australian High Court allowing New Zealand TV programs to be counted as Australian local content.

Previously, Australian broadcasting laws have required that at least half of all programming on TV networks be produced locally. Up until now, New Zealand programs were treated as imports. The new ruling means programs such as New Zealand-produced Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and soap opera Shortland Street will be counted as Australian programming.

The High Court found the TV laws were in contradiction to 1993 Closer Economic Agreement signed between the Australian and New Zealand governments to free up trade between the neighboring countries. The Australian TV industry has warned the ruling will mean cheap import programs from New Zealand will kill off high-quality and more expensive programming produced in Australia. Australian Broadcasting Authority Chairman David Flint warned the decision undermined the framework which allowed Australians to enjoy local TV programming.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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