I’ve been away on holiday for ten days, so have had the opportunity to push anything work-related out of my mind for a time.
Arriving back at my desk and engaging in work once more, however, I’m reminded of the considerable challenges facing the screen sector right now.
One of the more significant shifts going on is the coming together of TVNZ and RNZ as Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media, destined to come into being on 1 March 2023.
The reallocation of $42 million in contestable funding from NZ on Air to ANZPM has already occurred, which has meant that from July 1 2022 NZ On Air had a reduced pool of cash to fund content with.
To adjust to this significant change, NZ On Air is having to chart a new direction for the organisation. It has put out a strategic think piece, which you can read here.
The document is simple, straightforward and shows a clarity of thinking that’s encouraging. Essentially, in determining their strategic direction from here on in they are going to develop a model based around Laser Focused and Ideas Factory thinking, while longer term looking at Critical Mass to achieve greater effectiveness through partnerships. (Please follow the link for more detail on this.)
This bodes well I believe, while it is still upsetting that NZ On Air have had their funding reduced, with no planned increase in sight for them.
Another key element they identified to enable this possible new direction is a need for changes to the Broadcasting Act. The Act has governed NZ On Air’s direction since 1989, and just like the NZ Film Commission Act 1978, is past its use-by date.
The screen industry has changed globally and New Zealand is well behind the eight ball when it comes to keeping up. Rather than being proactive and outward looking we have been reactive and inward looking. Just look at what’s happening across the ditch.
Screen Australia’s 32nd annual Drama Report released last week reports that overall, $2.29 billion was spent across 162 drama screen productions that commenced production or post production in Australia in 2021/22 compared to $1.94 billion spent across 163 productions in 2020/21. The increase was driven by a record spend on Australian theatrical features ($786 million up from $495 million last year), as well as a record spend on Australian subscription TV and Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) – for which number of titles, hours and budgets have tripled from 2020/21.
Netflix, Paramount+, Prime Video, Disney+, and Apple TV+ and local SVOD Stan are helping to drive this growth, with commissions flowing to local production companies, and not just for drama.
New Zealand? Not so.
Yes, Australia has got a larger market, a lot more bankable stars, and better writers. But still. We’re not helping ourselves.
Look at the mess that MCH and MBIE are proposing, for example, in their draft paper for the Screen Sector Investment Review. If that goes through we’ll be going backwards not forwards.
Back to NZ On Air. They’ve been a well-run and pretty effective organisation to now, most people would agree. Their thinking about their future direction is positive in a bad situation.
I’m hoping that the same king of sound thought exhibited by NZ On Air will guide the outcome of the legislation intended for ANZPM. But I’m not holding my breath. It’s a political football being rushed towards the election-year touchline.
It seems like New Zealand’s domestic production sector is under threat from multiple sides right now. And we don’t really have anybody to blame but ourselves.
I’m hoping that those shaping our destiny have a great Xmas break and come back refreshed, invigorated, and really take on board the feedback they are getting from us and everybody else.
We need pragmatic and positive changes that will grow our local talent and local IP, and increase local production, while keeping international productions coming here. Now that would be a late Xmas present worth waiting for.