Tag Archive for: Warner Bros. Discovery

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The current fight to protect employee jobs going on at TVNZ by union E tū highlights the importance of unions in the New Zealand screen industry, and the importance of the Screen Industry Workers Act (SIWA) for screen contractors, who until SIWA came along in December 2023 had essentially no protections.

TVNZ is one of the few screen businesses to have a significant number of employees. Those employees have the protections of the Employment Relations Act. Screen contractors now have the protections of SIWA.

The employees at TVNZ who are journalists and media workers and members of E tū have a collective agreement.

We at DEGANZ together with the Writers Guild of New Zealand, Equity New Zealand and some other guilds, are currently seeking to put a collective agreement in place with the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA).

With collective agreements in place, we will have negotiated minimum pay rates and terms and conditions for screen contractors that will provide some certainty for us all.

And with collective agreements, we will be able to fight much more effectively for our members when those negotiated agreements aren’t adhered to.

If you have been following the developments at TVNZ you are most likely aware that E tū is going to file a claim with the Employment Relations Authority against TVNZ. It’s the union’s view that the company did not follow its consultation requirements, as guaranteed for workers in their collective agreement.

The Employment Relations Authority is a Tribunal established under the Employment Relations Act. Members of the Authority help to resolve employment relationship problems.

Under SIWA, the Employment Relations Authority will also help to resolve contractor relationship problems, should a screen guild seek to file a claim against a producer or production company on behalf of one or more contractors who are members.

The employees at TVNZ have for decades helped create the news, current affairs shows, and other programmes much loved by New Zealand audiences. Following the news of yesterday, Sunday, and the Midday and Tonight Bulletins are gone, and Fair Go significantly reduced, with about 70 job losses.  Over at Warner Bros. Discovery, Newshub staff found out that just under 300 jobs will go there.

We all know that it’s not just news and current affairs programmes that will be affected.

SPADA in a press release yesterday that you can read here, estimates that up to $50 million is coming out of our sector and that there is uncertainty around big popular shows like Shortland Street, Celebrity Treasure Island, The Traitors NZ, Married at First Sight NZ, food shows, home shows, and more.

If ever there was a time for every screen worker in New Zealand to come together as members of their guilds and for us to negotiate collective agreements, it’s right now.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

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Television is the bread and butter of the screen industry.

More; What we see on our screens reflects who we are as a nation and its peoples.

News and current affairs play a vital role in this, telling us what’s going on in our little corner of the world, as well as elsewhere. It informs, educates and sometimes entertains us.

I have to admit to being a news junkie.

At one point, I worked for a short time at the global video news agency Visnews before getting a job at the global news and financial information provider Reuters. I have over the years counted a number of journalists as my friends, and have worked with many former journalists in television, corporate communications and PR. Journalists are driven by what they do and fervently believe in providing balanced coverage as well as in-depth analysis to help us all learn about and or understand issues. I believe they and their work are vital to any society.

The devastating loss of Warner Bros. Discovery’s Newshub has been compounded by the proposals at TVNZ to reduce news programmes and eliminate both SUNDAY and FAIR GO.

I was confounded when I heard that the TVNZ board had rejected Warner Bros. Discovery’s proposal to establish a NZPA-like shared news-gathering service before either of them announced their cuts. It seemed somewhat like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

While Radio New Zealand provides an excellent source for news, current affairs and other factual and entertainment programming, it’s not really screen content even though they throw cameras in the studios and on location—it’s still radio, and as such still has a very important place. We need New Zealand news and current affairs beaming into our living rooms, otherwise we face the cultural domination that has for decades taken over our entertainment programming.

While I personally had issues with the proposed merger between TVNZ and Radio NZ—mainly with the outlined implementation and not the strategic intention—it could have helped ensure a strong and vigorous news and current affairs approach for screen, done properly.

Colin Peacock with his Mediawatch column of 10 March here, gives an excellent perspective on the situation, including a very salient interview with Tracey Martin, the chair of the board charged with getting the merged entity up and running.

Is there hope for news and current affairs in New Zealand? Tracey Martin thinks the bureaucrats need to go back to all the work that was done by her and that board as there are potentially a lot of answers there, which this government doesn’t seem to have at this point

What surprises me however in all the kerfuffle going on, is that scant attention is being given to Whakaata Māori, which has a strong news gathering service of its own and commitment to news and current affairs programming.

Maybe they have some of the answers everybody’s looking for.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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You’d have thought things might have settled after the COVID years. But, no, it’s still crazy. And what a year it’s been.

The long mooted merger of TVNZ and RNZ finally fell over.

The $60 million taken away from NZ On Air returned with an additional one-off $10 million.

The New Zealand Screen Production Grant, after months of uncertainty, while MBIE and MCH tried to figure out what to do, ultimately with a few tweaks became the NZ Screen Production Rebate.

New NZFC CEO Annie Murray replaced the missing-in-action David Strong and kicked off a major shake-up at the commish, appointing a Change Manager in Dana Youngman.

The writers’ and actors’ strikes in the U.S. that essentially paralysed Hollywood and shook up the global screen industry for half a year were resolved, with the actors’ membership just ratifying the deal.

We now have a three-party coalition government with Paul Goldsmith as Minister of Culture and Heritage, Melissa Lee as Minister of Media and Communications and Economic Development, and Brooke van Velden of the Act Party as the new Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety, from whence the Screen Industry Workers Act sprang.

DEGANZ became the talk of the town with its opposition to a British director directing ‘New Zealand’ film The Canyon, which tells the story of a woman who finds herself in peril traversing the Grand Canyon. It went ahead despite our protests.

And the television of unease that has been After The Party has concluded to rapturous acclaim. It seems our now eschewed, uniquely strange and dark film industry traits have permeated Kiwi telly to good effect.

Just some of the things making 2023 a momentous year. So what’s coming up in 2024?

I’m aware of at least four international productions arriving on our shores over the next few months, so if you are looking to hire experienced crew for a scripted production, good luck. If you are a graduating film school student or someone looking for a job change, however, a below-the-line crew job probably won’t come any easier.

A $6 million budget cut at NZFC doesn’t bode well for NZ film unless the board gets off its chuff and finds more money for the org. to make films with. Perhaps SPADA’s about turn on the idea of a streamer levy might inspire the NZFC board to look further than government coffers.

NZ On Air is full of enthusiasm about its role as a multi-party and gap financier for New Zealand productions with international finance partners and the opportunities that might bring, thanks to the Screen Sector Investment Review. Quite how this fits with its focus on making content for New Zealanders first and with a free-to-air remit is going to be an interesting watch.

Warner Bros. Discovery and SKY seem to be finding their mojo while TVNZ still seems a bit aimless with no replacement for former CEO Simon Powell in sight. How to make a commercially-driven,  public-broadcasting behemoth into a lean and fit, profitable fighting machine amidst a world of declining advertising revenues is going to be a herculean task for anyone in 2024.

As I’ve mentioned previously in this column, the international streamers are going to make you pay for the pleasure of watching advertising on their platforms. This seems to have inspired local streamer Neon to up its prices and announce the introduction of advertising. We’ll find out how Kiwis respond to that.

At the same time, the mad rush of streamers to make original content and own it is now on the downward slope, with licensing programming the new mantra. After ten years of peak TV drama internationally, we seem to be just finding our feet locally with shows like Far North and After The Party (two Premium Drama projects). As we never got in on the international streamer commissioning act except for the long ago Dark Tourist, licensing might prove to be our saviour.

At the Guild, we have a new board in place filled with enthusiasm for the work in the year ahead. There’s going to be a lot.

Undoubtedly, the changes coming at NZFC will not suit everyone, and there will be discussions to be had. The ever-changing marketplace for content brings both opportunities and challenges for our members and our industry that will require our attention. The need to remain financially viable in these tough economic times for everyone, demands our focus, too. Then of course there’s the new government and what that will mean for our industry. And once again, thanks to NZFC, we have a comprehensive professional development programme to roll out in the coming year.

It’s important though to take stock of where we are at right now.

We have improved membership numbers, though we still need more to help us do our work. We have good working relationships with the funding bodies and organisations that impact our sector. Collaboration with the other guilds and associations has grown over the last few years to a point where we communicate and cooperate effectively, even with our differences.

We have many dedicated people both on and off our board who give time, expertise and knowledge voluntarily—a special thank you from me and the organisation goes out to them.

Thanks also go to the New Zealand Film Commission, New Zealand On Air, the Australian Screen Directors Authorship Collection Society and Screenrights who have contributed financially to our operations and the work we did over the last year, and some, many years. While accounting firm VCFO, Resene Paints, and now Madman Entertainment make in-kind contributions or offer discounts or products that members can take advantage of.

I also wish to thank the staff who have helped me in 2023—Maddie Payne our Events and Marketing Manager, Izzi Hoskyn our Membership Coordinator, and our recently departed accounts person Caroline Harrow, who has seen the guild through three EDs in Anna Cahill, Fiona Copland and me across her 13 years working for us.

Things are crazy busy and will continue to be so for us here. We hope the same for you and that success will come with your mahi, however, it manifests itself.

We also hope that you find the time during the festive season to enjoy, rest and replenish your energy for 2024.

Ngā mihi o te wā

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

Mark Jennings, co-editor of online news platform Newsroom, and former head of News at TV3, has penned an article on Discovery’s plans for TV3.

As Jennings writes, after Discovery’s merger with WarnerMedia., TV3 is now part of the second largest media business in the world after Disney. That in itself is a serious game changer for New Zealand.

TV3 has had an up and down history, moving from private ownership into the Canadian-owned hands of media conglomerate Canwest, before shifting to private equity ownership with Ironbridge Capital and then Oaktree Capital Management. It’s financial fortunes also swung about, going from high profitability before plunging twice into receivership.

TVNZ and SKY in more recent times have kept TV3 impoverished but no longer.

Already the owner of NZ’s Choice TV and HGTV and with six of its own channels on the SKY service, Discovery has, as Jennings points out, brought its might to bear on acquisitions by driving down the prices it pays for content for TV3. With staff cutbacks and other efficiencies, AUNZ GM for Discovery Glen Kyne told Jennings that the channel will be looking to more domestic shows as it competes with TVNZ and Prime in the domestic free-to-air market for viewers.

But what kinds of shows are they after? Kyne didn’t exactly reveal what they are looking for.

In April Juliet Peterson, former GM TVNZ Digital Content, was appointed as Senior Director, Programming at Three, while Australian Darren Chau was appointed Senior Director, Production. Chau has been in New Zealand recently having meetings with some New Zealand producers. Undoubtedly, others have been banging on Juliet’s door. They are certainly looking for ideas.

With its merger with WarnerMedia, Discovery has moved from reality and factual into scripted film and TV as well, with an annual US$20 billion commissioning chest—bigger than Netflix’s. There has been speculation as to whether or not the new CEO of the combined organisation, David Zaslav, is going to adapt when it comes to scripted. This could well play out in TV3’s commissioning stance.

Supposedly, Three is looking for NZ content that can travel internationally as well. It will be interesting to see, though, whether or not the network will continue to rely primarily on NZ On Air and NZ Screen Production Grant funding to get content made in New Zealand. Hopefully, they’ll ante up more than low license fees and become equity investors in NZ shows that could go on one or more of the international distribution channels the newly-branded Warner Bros. Discovery conglomerate owns.

Will it be new beginnings for NZ’s free-to-air market or just more of the same? Watch this space.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director