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TVNZ Reveals Insane Deadlines For Māori and Pacific Island Programmes

By Nicole Williams

 

Last Tuesday, November 18th, TVNZ requested proposals from producers for the four Māori and Pacific Island programmes they will no longer be making in-house. Marae, Waka Huia, Fresh and Tagata Pasifika will keep their existing names, existing formats and existing budgets.

The problem is that while the budgets stay the same, the cost to make these programmes is going up.

Archive is a significant new expense. TVNZ charges outside productions a fair whack for archival material, even if it’s to air on TVNZ. Archive is an essential part of all four programmes. Marae and Tagata Pasifika shoot most of their interviews and action but like any news and current affairs show, they’ll need access to daily news footage from One News and Te Karere. Waka Huia and Fresh need older archive material from previous Waka Huia and Fresh series’ and from older film archives. TVNZ’s Māori and Pacific Dept got this for free, or at most the cost of the dub, but for the new producers, this will be a significant cost.

Music is a new cost to the shows. TVNZ has a blanket rights agreement to use any tracks in its news and current affairs programmes. The new producers will pay for their music by the truckload, or not have any.

Studio facilities, edit suites, cameras and all that technical guff will cost more because TVNZ was only charging itself a pretty reasonable rate. The market rates that new producers will pay, either at TVNZ or elsewhere can get pretty expensive pretty quickly. Yes there’s always a cheap way to do things, but yes, that always looks cheap on screen too a la Triangle TV (sorry Bomber). For the live shows the only practical option is to use TVNZ’s studio but the cost will increase. Marae for example, uses the same studio as Q&A and shares the cost of crew and studio. Will that arrangement continue or will TVNZ charge the outside production more?

Crews, editors, edit suites, sound mixing, graphics, mastering and all the rest of it will all increase the budget more than previously. Even more of a cost and headache will be the logistics of simply making a weekly programme without having all your facilities under one roof. At TVNZ getting some archive, editing it into a programme, running it through a sound mix and mastering it to go to air was a straightforward and seamless proposal. The new producers will probably need to hire an extra person just to manage the logistics.

So how will producers cover these costs while working to the same budgets? By reducing research and editorial budgets – paying reporters, directors and crews less and hiring less of them. This can only mean a lowering in the quality of journalism, entertainment and information in these four shows.

Yet, this is not the biggest problem. The biggest challenge is the time frame in which new producers must get their productions up and running. From the RFP they have just ten days to put together their proposal and submit it to the TVNZ commissioner.

The ‘winners’, assuming that anyone actually applies, will be announced mid-December. They then face the impossible task of fully establishing their fast-turnaround, high-profile and resource-hungry television series’ over the Christmas break and be ready for the new season in 2015.

Waka Huia is okay with three months to get rolling in late March. Marae on the other hand has a deadline early in March and also faces the huge demand of putting together a one hour special for Waitangi Day on February 6. This nationally important programme will be cobbled together in just six weeks, while the rest of the country has shut down for summer holidays. One assumes they’ll get a lot of out-of-office auto-replies.

The deadlines for the Pacific Island shows are even tighter. Fresh must be on-air weekly from February 15 and Tagata Pasifika by January 17! Whoever takes on Tagata Pasifika has just three weeks to make their first live episode from scratch, and then keep on making them every week for a year. That’s just insane!

To put this in context, another current affairs series, Sunday Programme already has items shot, edited and ready to go for next year.

These are some of the only Māori and Pacific Island programmes being aired on TVNZ and their producers face a huge challenge, especially Tagata Pasifika. Logistics, budget and ludicrous deadlines mean it will be a miracle if they manage to get their programmes to air, at the standard audiences expect.

And that’s the point. Ultimately, it’s the audiences of these programmes who will suffer.

The way TVNZ is outsourcing these programmes is quite simply irresponsible. It smacks of being a rushed decision taken by people who don’t know or care how television is made. Everyone including funding agencies and staff was taken by surprise. The Minister of Broadcasting only got a few days notice. Most independent producers are already committed for 2015. With more notice the whole process could have been handled more smoothly.

And still the question remains – why did TVNZ do this?

 

Nicole Williams is a Coalition for Better Broadcasting Member

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