Filling the airwaves 

Alice Springs documentary film-maker Dr David Curl was a guest speaker at the recent Creative Citizenship symposium

Filling our airwaves with program content should be the responsibility of Australians, Alice Springs documentary film-maker Dr David Curl told the Creative Citizenship symposium.

He said 76 per cent of new television programs came from overseas, mostly from America, suggesting that Australia had surrendered the airwaves to those well beyond our borders.

“Most of the media that shapes our culture is foreign,” he said. “But it should be our responsibility to fill our airwaves with content. It’s our creative sector in films and television that should be shaping our cultural identity.”

He said that the economic value of local film-making was not always recognised by governments, who even paid for overseas documentary and wild-life producers to come here and make their own films.

“What is not known is that every one dollar in funding for an Australian-made film shown overseas is worth $2000 in publicity and promotional value for the country,“ he said.

Dr Curl said governments still tended to treat documentary film-making as “a bit of a hobby farm” with no strong commitment to the economic and cultural value of the industry.

“We need appropriate policies and funding so that the creative media can record our history and create a sense of identity,” he said.

However, Dr Curl looked into the future to see how the cultural landscape was being transformed by digital technology and ‘interactive content’.

“The transformation has begun with the Internet being turned into a broadcast medium where home-based users can add content directly to a website,” Dr Curl said.

“We’re about to enter a brave new world where there are 40,000 Internet channels. It may be some time before these channels capture the massive audience of today’s broadcasters, but the process is well under way.”

He said Australian governments, and the Northern Territory in particular, were lagging well behind in investment for these creative industries, with most funding stuck in “some kind of bureaucratic time-warp” that equated infrastructure investment with roads, buildings and railways.

Dr Curl is an Alice Springs-based film-maker and NT president of the Australian Cinematographers Society.