Sunday, November 21, 2004


Clean smell of success

Australia is making a clean sweep with its soaps:
The world has a serious problem with Australian soaps. It just can't get enough of them. Whether it's the allure of eternal sunshine or fly-screen doors that are never locked, it seems we've cracked the code for serial dramas that hit the cross-cultural spot.

Home and Away, now in its 17th year of production, is distributed to more than 48 countries (and can be seen in as many as 120 countries due to the satellite footprint). Subtitled or dubbed (in Lithuania, one person voices all the parts), Home and Away is an international hit, watched by more than 60 million viewers daily. It's loved in Britain, but is just as well received in Botswana, Kenya and Dubai. Neighbours, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, is seen in 12 countries and has a worldwide daily audience of 120 million.

British viewers continue to be the biggest consumers of our soaps. In 1988 a peak of 18 million tuned into Scott and Charlene's wedding on Neighbours and both Neighbours and Home and Away still attract daily audiences of more than 6 million viewers. Neighbours consistently rates No. 1 in its daytime slot.

That peak figure of 18 million in 1988 is equivalent to Australia's 1995 population.
Dr Mike Minehan, head of communication at Insearch, University of Technology Sydney, says the cross-cultural appeal is not surprising. "There is a sense of freedom and the new world about Australia that the older world looks upon with some envy. They watch our soaps and think that everybody lives in a beautiful home, everybody is young and attractive, everybody goes to the beach, and that it's always sunny. That's what our soaps play on. It's a bit like a dream they would like to live."

So much for people only wanting local voices telling local tales. Free trade is a two-way street. If we want our programs exported to the world, we should accept overseas programs being allowed to screen here.

Besides, if it weren't for trade in tv programs, Xena wouldn't have screened in Australia. That would have been a bad thing.

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