Tag Archive for: broadcast

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The proposal by Warner Bros. Discovery to shut Newshub highlights the dismal failure past and present by successive New Zealand governments, bureaucracy and those in the screen sector to grasp the seismic changes that have flowed through our wider industry across the last twenty years, exacerbated in large measure by the global tech giants and streamers, particularly in the last ten.

A large part of the responsibility, in my view, lies with the neoliberal economic reforms brought about by the Rogernomics Labour Government of the 1980s.

New Zealand’s commitment to free trade from both sides of the political spectrum was firmly cemented in the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement of Trade and Tariffs (GATT). We were so determined to open up markets for our agricultural produce and flush with success when the Round concluded in 1994, that we paid scant attention to the potential impact of free trade on our audio-visual and media sectors when we signed up to the General Agreement of Trade and Services (GATS) in 1995. New Zealand was one of only 13 countries that made market-opening commitments in the audio-visual sector, which includes ‘multimedia’ services. Australia negotiated a specific exception. Other countries like Canada and those of the European Union have exceptions like domestic content requirements, screen quotas, divestiture requirements, foreign ownership restrictions and other protectionist measures to ensure their cultures, their stories, and their screen sector and media businesses have an opportunity to adapt and survive in the face of intensifying global competition.

But no, not us.

We have for decades continued down the free market path. Even worse, when the writing was clearly on the wall for our screen and media businesses years ago, we had become so inculcated with a free market mentality that we did practically nothing. And still haven’t.

Our broadcasters and media companies have been screaming till they’re blue in the face that the global tech companies are sucking up all our domestic advertising revenue, making it increasingly unsustainable for them to operate. And the streamers are all getting in on the act now. Meanwhile, the streamers have so dramatically altered the landscape for film and television content that we are struggling to have our cultural voices heard.

While the global entities point to GATT, GATS  and the World Trade Organisation as justification for their right to dominate, we could still have changed our approach and it would have been accepted. But we didn’t. The former Labour Government’s proposed Fair Digital News Media Bargaining Bill and other protectionist measures are ten years too late. And the Bill is looking rather like a deceased feathered thing right now. The current government from the majority of their responses to the Newshub debacle seems relatively unconcerned, believing companies need to innovate to survive and that there are more than enough media voices about.

Meanwhile, international serviced production, the lack of financial support for domestic content creation and the blinkered approach by our screen sector including our funding bodies to identify, truly understand and rapidly adapt to the global shifts in our business, has those of us dependent on domestic production facing a future of dire uncertainty.

Leave it to Winnie to deliver that unexpected twist in the Newshub story: “A critical part of any democracy and free society is the fourth estate and an independent fourth state, and I am concerned about where we are going now,” he said.

I remember the excitement and energy that flowed through the industry when TV3 got going in Flower Street all those years ago. A lot of the people bubbling about the place were journalists but also included all those in the independent sector thrilled that somebody other than just TVNZ would be controlling their future.

It’s a sad day to see the likely demise of Newshub and the loss of the hundreds of jobs that will accompany it, and what it will mean for our democracy and our journalism.

It’s going to be even sadder when the impact of the Warner Bros. Discovery decision and others to come directly shake up our own little corner of the screen universe forever.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

I’ve been watching the debates raging across the Tasman as the Austalian screen industry seeks to ensure the future of Australian content in the face of the realities of SVOD.

Research company Roy Morgan reported in March 2019 that nearly 14 million Australians now have access to some form of Pay TV/Subscription TV, up 11.8% on a year ago.

Netflix with over 11.2 million subscribers had growth on a year ago of 25.2%, with Australian-owned Stan at 2.6 million subscribers seeing a 45.2% increase.

YouTube Premium and Amazon Prime also had significant increases.

Australian broadcasting standards require all commercial free-to-air television licensees to broadcast an annual minimum transmission quota of 55 per cent Australian programming between 6 am and midnight. In addition, there are specific minimum annual sub-quotas for first-run Australian adult drama, documentary and children’s programs.

SVODs in Australia have no Australian content requirement.

Australian commercial broadcasters sought in 2017 to have the quota removed for Australian children’s content. The Australian screen industry united against this, decrying what they said would be the almost complete annihilation of Australian children’s programming.

Then in 2017 the Australian Directors’ Guild; Australian Writers’ Guild;  Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance and Screen Producers Australia joined together to launch the ‘Make It Australia’ campaign to lobby the Government for support for the sector in the wake of sustained funding cuts and changed viewing habits, which of course includes the rise of SVODs.

They called for no more cuts to SBS, the ABC and Screen Australia; a raising of tax incentives for Australian TV and foreign productions; a cementing of the commercial free-to-air Australian content quota at 55%; and new regulations for Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) providers.

The Australian Government launched in 2017 an Australian and Children’s Content Review.

In March of 2019, the Senate Committee released its Review paper. Among the recommendations was a call to force streaming services such as Netflix and Stan (and Amazon and any others who might enter the space) to spend a minimum 10 per cent of income earned in Australia on original Australian content. They would also be obliged to promote that content to their subscribers. The other recommendations:

  • The current quota system being preserved.
  • Examining other Terms of Trade provisions and implementing them.
  • Introducing a single Producer Offset of 40%.*
  • Ceasing recognising New Zealand content as Australian.**
  • Increasing the Location Offset to 30%
  • Decoupling the Location and Post, Digital and Visual Effects (PDV) Offset.
  • Platform Neutral Location and ODV Offsets.

*The Producer Offset, Australia’s version of the NZ Screen Production Grant, sits at 20% for TV.

**This refers to Project Blue Sky, which allowed NZ content to be recognised as Australian content because of the Closer Economic Relations (CER) agreement between the two countries.

What did they Australian Government do in response? It allowed streamers that operate behind a paywall access to the production incentive for content they make in Australia, which of course includes international productions shooting there.

“The Government’s policy announcement is inexplicable and one-dimensional given how many times our local sector has called for urgent intervention”, said Austrlian Directors Guild CEO, Kingston Anderson.

“Our screen incentives need to be updated across the board, not just those that apply to international production. This decision shows a tremendous lack of confidence in the ability of Australians to tell our stories in our own voices.”

You are possibly wondering why at this point I am so wrapped up in what’s going on in Australia? It’s because I feel it’s clearly indicative of what we face and have essentially been ignoring till now. The 10-year screen strategy recently called for by the NZ Government is a chance to address the many problems the onslaught of foreign content and SVODs are having on the NZ screen industry. We only have to look across the Tassie for some insights and thoughts on how to address the issues.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Exeuctive Director

The New Zealand International Film Festival is upon us again. And there’s an even bigger selection of New Zealand films on offer, both feature-length and short, than I’ve encountered before—18 offerings, four of which are made up of programmes of short films. This is a fantastic selection—a high number from DEGNZ member directors and editors.

As Bill Gosden, the festival director pointed out in his speech celebrating the 50th birthday of the festival, it couldn’t have existed without the passion of film lovers who have nurtured it to the point where it has become what NZIFF is today—a truly great International film festival, showcasing the best of New Zealand and international film.

As always I encourage you to get along and watch films to encourage independent filmmaking everywhere.

In other news, Clare Curran is certainly the minister who keeps on giving, unfortunately not so much in the funding realm. The latest in the Radio NZ saga is a measly $4.5 million dollars to RNZ from the $15 million in the May Budget allocation for public media. NZ On Air gets just $4 million, while a new Innovation Fund to be jointly managed by Radio NZ and NZ On Air gets the lion’s share at $6 million.

It must be disturbing for Curran to hear from chair Michael Stiassny of the Ministerial Advisory Group she appointed that not even they support a fully funded RNZ+ television station. What you get—or not—for the price of a cup of coffee.

In a related development, Head of NZ On Air Jane Wrightson responded to an article in Newsroom by Dr Bryce Edwards of Victoria Univeristy, who singled out our current dual funding model of contestable and fully-funded public broadcasting for criticism. In her reply on the same platform Wrightson said that “In the 21st century media landscape it’s highly unlikely that one media provider model will fit all, and so a combination of ring-fenced and contestable funding is a clever response by a small country where media cost structures are always under pressure.”

There are supporters and detractors of the dual funding model approach. Whatever your opinion on the matter, I think we all need to acknowledge the incredible work NZ On Air has done in seeking to adapt to the rapidly changing screen industry while being incredibly underfunded.

Thankfully, we now see broadcasters slowly being willing to take risks with the arrival on air of Taika’s and Jemaine’s Wellington Paranormal, and two new dramas commissioned and screening at a later date: The Bad Seed out of South Pacific Pictures, and Fresh Eggs from Warners NZ. And we are starting to see more locally driven international efforts bear fruit with Screentime’s copro Scandi – NZ noir Straight Forward now in post and destined for TVNZ.

And talk about change, there sure as hell seems to be a lot going on at the Film Commission—a new pou whakahaere in the wonderful and talented Karen Te O Kahurangi Waaka-Tibble, new job opportunities with the departures of Development Executive Karin Williams and Investment Executive Chris Moll, and obviously a change of approach that always comes with a new CEO, this time with the arrival of Annabelle Sheehan who has been with us seven months now. Watch this space for more to come.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director