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With the Youth-focused funding announced yesterday by NZ On Air, and the joint announcement of Scripted funding by NZ On Air and Te Māngai Pāho to a combined total of over $15 million dollars, there was an audible sigh of relief heard on the bleak New Zealand media landscape.

This is an injection of revenue into our domestic production base that will deliver more work to New Zealand businesses and screen workers, amidst a lowering in production funding from two of our three main funding bodies being NZ On Air and NZFC, while TMP’s funding for the moment remains unchanged.

I wanted to focus in on the Youth-focused funding announcement as it’s a telling signal for a number of reasons.

NZ On Air in its press release said: “The Within My Reach call for proposals was a response to the 2022 Where Are the Youth Audiences research which showed a social media-first approach would be needed to reach 15-24 year old audiences.”

More simply and bluntly put, 15 – 24 year old audiences don’t watch NZ free to air broadcast any more. Every parent knows this.

I thought, however, that its more revealing to look at the funding slightly differently:

 Int’l PlatformsInt’l + NZ Platforms Funding
Scripted   
First Place, 5 x 12′YouTube, Facebook, InstagramThe Coconet TV, TVNZ+ $  970,000.00
Literally Dead, 8 x 8′YouTube $  526,990.00
Bloke Of The Apocalypse, 6 x 6′YouTube $  472,368.00
The Sender, 17 x 2′Instagram Reel, TikTok, YouTube $  375,000.00
Non-Fiction
The Regions, 5 x 7’YouTube, Instagram, Facebook,Re:, TVNZ+ $  505,115.00
Beyond The Beat, 5 x 8 – 12′, and 50 x 15 – 60”, 1 x music videoYouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook $  500,000.00
Pā Life, 5 x 10’YouTube, Facebook, InstagramTVNZ+ $  463,788.00
Kaputī With The Cuzzies, 10 x 20′YouTube $  194,311.00
Sight Unseen, 5 x 5-10’YouTube, TikTok, InstagramAble.co.nz $  186,767.00
What Sex Ed Didn’t Teach You, 15 x 90”YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and TikTokRe: $  178,550.00
The Gender AgendaYouTube$  395,115.00
d8talk, 230 x 1’Instagram Reels, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube $  149,386.00
 $2,613,170.00  $2,304,220.00

 

What this tells us is that International Platforms get $2.6 million in funded content from NZ On Air with no contribution to the funding as far as I can tell. In other words, free funded programming with NZ content hooks to wrap advertising around, to take advertising dollars away from NZ businesses like TVNZ. Not only that, they also get a bite of the pie going to the local platforms, too. More importantly for the international platforms, though, they still are not required to contribute to local NZ production via mechanisms like the previous government’s proposed Fair Digital News Bargaining Bill, a streamer levy, quota or such like, to make them ante up. At least a small sigh of relief from them, I’d think.

The other clear indicator here is that half the funding went to projects with no broadcast commitment. Free to air, yes, but via digital platforms.

Now you can’t blame NZ On Air for enabling the international platforms. They have a requirement to serve local eyeballs. With 18 – 24 year-old Kiwis not watching linear and getting most of their screen content from the international platforms, they have to go there—this in the hope that young Kiwis will discover and watch that NZ content amongst the global offerings. And that NZ content might find international eyeballs in sufficient numbers to stimulate a positive response.

Example: one of our member directors, Victoria Boult, created TikTok series Noob funded by a NZ On Air, Screen Australia AND TikTok initiative that she turned into a half-hour TV series, which she wrote and directed on. It’s in post now and will play out on Warner Bros. Discovery here.

From a $53,000 TikTok series to a $1.5 million local TV show is definitely a positive for all concerned.

We all know the game has changed in our business. Forever. There’s a new reality.

Global media entities now exert far greater influence on us than ever before. Significant government action is required NOW if we are to have even a small chance of surviving the onslaught. Should that happen, there would be a collective sigh of relief from us all… for awhile.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

The standoff between the Australian Government and the global digital platforms has been a fascinating insight into the power the platforms, particularly Facebook, now hold.

Australia’s News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, just passed by the Australian Senate in the last 24 hours, allows the Australian Treasurer to designate global platforms who then must start negotiating with news businesses about how much to pay them for content through mediation, or if that fails, arbitration.

None of the platforms were happy with the thought of having to pay for something they have been getting for free up until now. And nor did they care that the advantage they had was driving news publishers out of business. However, the big stick of proposed legislation forced Google to reach deals with some major Australian news media outlets. It’s highly likely though that this would never have come about if Bill Gates and Microsoft hadn’t stepped into the breach with the threat of its search engine Bing replacing Google—sufficient enough a concern for Google to cave in.

Facebook however is a different matter. It’s such an all-pervasive platform with no real competition that Mark Zuckerberg felt emboldened enough to cut Australian news feeds from Facebook rather than pay up. An unintended consequence of this was to remove from Facebook Australian-originated information that was considered vital, such as that from health services providing Covid information, charities, food banks, and other important sources. Additionally, the removal of trusted news sources also reignited criticism of Facebook as a promoter of conspiracy theories and fake news.

Facebook’s bullying tactics were lambasted by UK and European Governments, but they did in fact force the Australian Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to amend the proposed bill. Rather than all platforms being designated from Day 1, the Treasurer is required to give 30-day’s notice before a platform goes on the list. And Facebook gets to avoid going on the list at this point.

There has been considerable criticism of the Australian Government’s bill from a variety of sources, ranging from that it’s an incredibly blunt instrument to it being favourable towards the major Australian media players while doing nothing for small publishers. There’s more to come on this David vs Goliath battle but Round One seems to have gone to Facebook.

Meanwhile, at the Australian screen producers conference Screen Forever, Australian producers decried the Australian Government’s deregulation of Australia’s commercial networks while failing to regulate Subscription Video On Demand providers like Netflix. Deregulation means the screen industry there has lost the stringent quotas for local content that used to be required of the networks. At the same time, the Producer Offset—the Australian equivalent of the New Zealand Production Grant–for feature film was also lowered from 40% to 30%. These two hits created significant uncertainty about the ability of many Australian production companies to survive. Although there is a mooted requirement from the Aussie Government that SVODs and AVODs invest a percentage of their revenue on Australian content in the form of commissions, co-productions and acquisitions, it’s only in its early consultation phase with nothing concrete expected should it come to pass for some time. While a figure of five percent of revenue has been flagged by Government there as a level streamers would be required to invest in Australian content, amongst the production community 20 per cent is being touted as much more realistic.

This side of the Tasman it’s far too easy to say that the New Zealand Government is being gutless by avoiding to talk about any kind of regulation of global platforms or SVODs. I’m hoping that doesn’t prove to be true.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director