Globalisation has been both beneficial and detrimental to the New Zealand screen industry. Beneficial in that we have been the recipient of international productions coming here and spending many millions of dollars on goods, services and wages with a net benefit to the New Zealand economy.
When American producer Rob Tapert really kicked it off with Hercules in the 90’s, he also trained up many of the crew who went on to work on his other shows and later Peter Jackson’s and Andrew Adamson’s films, amongst other big budget projects. Now our crew have a reputation second to none.
But we really screwed up when we signed up for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and failed to get an exemption as Australia did for audiovisual services.
This exemption allows Australia to impose broadcast quotas for local content. It also creates the possibility for Australia to apply quotas to digital services, including streamers as is now being actively discussed there. Meanwhile, in New Zealand when we talk about quotas on broadcast and levies on streamers, the first thing that springs from peoples’ mouths is, “We can’t because of GATT.”
Well maybe it’s time to drive significant change here as is currently being proposed in many other sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it great opportunity to make change that before would never have been imaginable.
We are seeing examples of it every day in the news. The proposed merger of TVNZ and RNZ, the setting aside of the Resource Management Act, the drive to grow the New Zealand manufacturing sector, and the selling of CBD head offices because working from home has become a reality for many. We are now having to reconfigure the rules to adapt to the new normal we find ourselves in.
With America turning in on itself, the idea of unchecked globilisation being reconsidered, and trade deals being mooted for restructuring and renegotiation, now is an ideal time for cultural considerations for local content to be reinstated. We should be looking to ensure that New Zealand content on NZ screens is a requirement, not just a nice to have, whether it’s on local broadcasters and platforms or international streamers swamping us with international content.
In the meantime, we just have to figure out a way to swamp the world with New Zealand content. Some more funding for NZ On Air and the NZ Film Commission would be a good start.