Growing up, my media consumption was riddled with censorship. As a child I was allowed 1 hour of TV a day – non commercial channels only. When internet use starting playing a role in my life, I was initially not allowed to use such networks as Myspace and MSN. After a rather convincing argument along the very familiar lines of “everyone’s using it” and “I’ll be left out!”, I was eventually allowed to use MSN, which I then proceeded to use daily. I was given a phone at the start of my high school life for emergencies only; eventually its use spread into socialising (mostly playing Snake though) and my mum would confiscate my phone if I were on it after midnight. In the last few years, as I’ve become more independent my parental censorship has obviously taken a big step back. In fact, my private space for media consumption receives no parental censorship at all. It’s geographical censorship that affects me the most today.
The image below familiar to any fellow Aussies?
How about this one?
As I mentioned in a previous post, our sense of private and public space has merged with the growth of technology and access to the internet. Yet despite all these growing advantages and connectedness, why am I still finding I cannot access content simply due to my physical location? It just doesn’t make sense.
Access to content in Australia is currently limited to pay TV avenues, such as Foxtel and Fetch TV, and the online streaming company, Quickflix. Netflix, which has taken the rest of the world by storm, is still not technically available in Australia. I say technically, because some legend has found a way to bypass our geographical limitations and allow people to access Netflix. (This has actually lead to Netflix deciding to include Australia in their online streaming circle within this year – yay for inclusion!)
Despite this move towards Australia having open access to Netflix, private companies, such as Foxtel and Nine Entertainment Co, are working very hard to retain our geographical censorship. Foxtel has gone out of its way to maintain rights to HBO programs and Nine Entertainment Co have ensured they make certain TV shows unavailable on Netflix until Nine have completed airing the entire season on pay TV.
“You will never see an HBO program on Netflix in Australia,” states Foxtel’s CEO Richard Freudenstein.
Similarly, the Australian Government has recently moved to continue their crackdown on internet piracy, as torrenting is apparently affecting “Australia’s $90 billion copyright industries“. Their plan of action involves invasive blocking of torrenting websites through changing the copyright laws to force ISPs (internet service providers) to be liable for the viewing of these websites. This plan of action would involve serious monitoring of the Australian public and, I would argue, a breach of privacy.
It is interesting that private companies (who are heavily invested in making money) and the government (who are heavily invested in having access to our metadata), both argue that torrenting affects industries ability to make money. Especially considering research has shown that people who torrent still buy the merchandise for this content, effectively retaining the creators revenue. An example of this is HBO’s Game of Thrones, which Australia has notoriously torrented since the series emerged in 2011. The creators of the show have publicly stated that they do not take issue with the fact that Australia is their #1 torrentor. They argue that torrenting allows their show to reach a wider audience, which = more bought merchandise = more revenue.
For a lot of Australians, torrenting content has become a way of getting around our geographical censorship. This censorship is only increased by private parties and political organisations working to maintain our isolation for their own gains. It seems to me that the only people truly affected by torrenting, are those who seek to control our consumption of media. With the arrival of Netflix, I’m hoping the playing field for accessing media will widen and we will slowly be integrated into a more global based network, where access is no longer restrained by geography. But hey, until then, at least we have kangaroos and boomerangs.
Hayes, D. (2013) Six Reasons Why DVDs Still Make Money — And Won’t Die Anytime Soon. Forbes. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dadehayes/2013/07/08/six-reasons-why-dvds-still-make-money-and-wont-die-anytime-soon/ [Accessed 22 September 2014].
Hibberd, J. (2013) HBO: ‘Game of Thrones’ piracy is a compliment, Inside TV. Available at: http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/03/31/hbo-thrones-piracy/ [Accessed 22 September 2014].
Law, J. (2014) Illegal downloading in government’s sights as Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper takes aim at consumers, ISPs. News.com.au. Available at:http://www.news.com.au/technology/online/illegal-downloading-in-governments-sights-as-online-copyright-infringement-discussion-paper-takes-aim-at-consumers-isps/story-fnjwneld-1227004467973[Accessed 22 September 2014].
McIntyre, P; White, D. (2014) Looming Netflix arrival sparks TV rights scramble. The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/business/looming-netflix-arrival-sparks-tv-rights-scramble-20140921-10k0qt.html [Accessed 22 September 2014].
Netflix Australia – How To Get It Easily right now!. 2014. Netflix Australia – How To Get It Easily right now!. Available at:http://www.netflixaustralianow.com.au/. [Accessed 22 September 2014].
Polites, H, 2014. Forget Netflix: Four reasons to watch Australia’s local content players. Business Spectator. Available at:http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/5/1/technology/forget-netflix-four-reasons-watch-australias-local-content-players [Accessed 22 September 2014].