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Australia pressured over US FTA: Crowe

NineMSN News, Australia

Australia pressured over US FTA: Crowe

26 November 2005

Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe says the Australian government has buckled to United States pressure over free trade.

"The free trade agreement that is being worked on at the moment basically will rule out our lives if I was 20 years old and wanted to do with my life what I have done so far," Crowe said in Melbourne, speaking to media ahead of his hosting the Australian Film Institute Awards.

Concerns were raised by the Australian entertainment industry that certain provisions of the FTA deal, particularly those relating to pay television and future media forms, would effectively result in American film, television and radio programs dominating in Australia.

The current FTA came into effect on January 1 this year.

Australia’s radio, television and film industries were already operating under certain regulations that guarantee the provisions of local content.

Under those provisions, Australian radio and TV networks must broadcast 20 per cent local content during certain peak times of the day.

The FTA, Crowe said, put further pressure on the provisions.

"Everybody that works in entertainment ... we have to be aware that talking to our unions or supporting our unions when they go to stand up is very important," Crowe said.

"And if there is any kind of political aspect to Saturday night (the AFIs) it will be about local content."

Also a musician, Crowe said the Australian music industry had suffered in recent years because of the lack of local content played on radio.

"We have had a very big dip in the Australian music industry in the last decade in terms of live rooms ... and that is mainly because radio isn’t supporting new Australian music," he said.

"It is all well and good that you can play Cold Chisel six times a day but it doesn’t actually fit into the spirit of what local content is supposed to be.

"Cold Chisel songs that are close to the heart of Australians still have a place on radio and obviously they are a wonderful band, but surely by now they should be outside our 20 per cent of local content because they are so iconographic to the country.

"So I think across the board ... creatively in Australia we have to be very careful to protect what we have."

Hosting the AFI Awards on Saturday night for 80 per cent of the time in an American accent would fulfil the FTA.

"I think we should stop," he said.