The country’s film and TV sector has had a busy week - and all away from the camera and in the corridors of power.
The Screen Industry Workers Bill was passed yesterday (Wednesday), reviving the ability for collective bargaining and minimum rights for film and television workers.
The move is being celebrated, with Equity New Zealand Director Denise Roche releasing a statement declaring “It’s about time working people in the screen industry got the protection and security they deserve.”
It’s a major acknowledgement after the sector refused to take the previous law amendments lying down - but they’re not done asking questions of the Government.
How the upcoming TVNZ and RNZ merger will impact the local production industry is starting to heat up - with confirmation this week from New Zealand On Air’s Chair Dr Ruth Harley that they have been “formally advised” by Government that from next year, $84.8 million will now go to the new joint entity, Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media (ANZPM).
So instead of having $145.7m to put toward local content and platforms next year, NZ On Air will now only have $60.9m to play with for everyone else. That is a steep drop.
Harley states “This now requires a very rapid reframing of how NZ On Air can best complement the work of the new ANZPM, to the benefit of NZ audiences and the wider media sector.
“NZ On Air is working hard to create a new strategy that will best utilise a more limited budget to support public media for audiences using a range of platforms.
Our priority is on ensuring we can give the sector certainty about funding opportunities beyond July 2023 as soon as possible.”
The New Zealand Screen Producers’ Guild SPADA are very vocal in raising their concerns, including making an oral submission on the ANZPM Bill to the Select Committee at Parliament House yesterday to accompany their written one.
SPADA President Irene Gardiner (above) expresses that while funding going direct to ANZPM is not unexpected, “it does highlight what some of the risks to the local production sector might be as we move towards ANZPM.
“This is the biggest change to broadcasting policy in a generation, and it is crucial that we get it right.
"We are hoping there is still room for NZ On Air's funding to be topped up a little to enable strong local content across all platforms.
"We will be lobbying Government for both entities to be funded sufficiently to deliver on the public media and local production outcomes expected of the new entity. We have always said that this policy change is only worth doing if it is funded adequately. Both the ANZPM and NZ On Air must be strong and healthy.”
Renowned producer John Barnett has earned his reputation with half a century in the industry - and is not one afraid to put forward his thoughts.
Speaking to The Big Idea, Barnett labelled it “an ill thought out, poorly prepared ‘solution’, looking for a problem and leaving mayhem in its wake.”
That this issue is progressing at its current pace concerns him. “As someone who was part of a very broad and experienced Think Tank, which made a 75 page submission, I know that there are severe concerns about the poor drafting, inadequate proposed structure and most importantly, the independence of the ultimate entity.
“The removal of funding for New Zealand On Air, ahead of any consideration of the 980+ submissions, highlights the fact that this Minister (Willie Jackson) and this Government are panicking about the Bill, and without any question, they recognise that no other party would sign up to their proposal in its current form.
“This Government claims to be ‘the most open and transparent in New Zealand’s history’, but its actions here state the absolute opposite case.”
John Barnett. Photo: Supplied.
In explaining why he believes this will have “a disastrous impact on the production sector”, Barnett details “neither ANZPM nor NZ On Air will have sufficient funds to enable them to support the creation of Content which is by/for/and about ‘us’.
“The answer to that is to ensure that organisations like NZ On Air are well funded to be able to make those decisions - as they did this week with the funding of content for young New Zealanders to watch on sites like TikTok, which has more NZ viewers than any of the established local platforms.
On set of local production Creamerie. Photo: Supplied.
“The ANZPM Bill provides no process for the engagement of audiences, but assumes that ‘if you build it they will come’. It contemplates spending almost $375m to merge two organisations, which both do a good job already, into a single organisation whose costs will rise through bureaucracy, rather than creation of content for audiences.
“Like so many aspects of the NZ Screen Industry, change is being implemented without discussion with the actual practitioners and there are changes being made in all sorts of areas - such as the Screen Production Grant, Screen working conditions, the Maori Media aspirations, and this proposed Bill. Each coming under a different Ministry - each having an impact on the other - and none of them allowing any co-ordination or ability to look at the total picture.
“The cutting of NZ On Air funding will result in less NZ Programming and ultimately fewer New Zealanders working on NZ Programmes.
“Last week the Prime Minister met with the Motion Picture Distributors Association (MPDA US) to encourage them to keep sending Productions to NZ to be made here with the assistance of the International Rebate Scheme.
“The moves made this week by the Minister of Broadcasting will result in fewer New Zealanders working in the Industry, and that will reduce our capacity to service the offshore Productions which the Prime Minister really wants to come here.”
There’s no stopping the ANZPM juggernaut. But preservation of local content production is worth fighting for.