27 June 2012
NZ On Air regularly reviews funding and operations so that we remain responsive to change and open to new ways of serving audiences. This review assesses our funding strategies for television documentary and factual programming.
We invest around $16 million each year into a broad range of documentary and factual programming aimed at both mainstream and special interest television audiences.
The big issues around broadcast and documentary/factual production have changed little over the years even though the environment for their screening has. In part this is why documentary was designated a statutory priority for NZ On Air in the Broadcasting Act 1989.
There have always been competing tensions at play for this
important genre which include:
• Prime time scheduling requirements significantly shape the type and style of funded documentary (fast, colourful storytelling that grabs and holds a sizeable audience in a fiercely competitive environment)
• Some stories benefit from being more told in a more thoughtful, discursive or analytical way
• Some documentary makers want to tell their story in a different way and at a different pace than required by television programmers
• Channel strategies rarely prioritise documentary, per se
• Audience numbers are bigger for popular factual than documentary
• The ability to attract larger audiences is one of the strengths of the television medium
• Ratings are not the only measure of success, but critical success is harder to quantify
• Online and transmedia options are there but New Zealand audiences on these channels remain relatively small
As always, we need good partnerships with broadcasters, channel operators, the production industry and other investors to achieve the best outcomes for New Zealand broadcast audiences.
This paper canvasses the current state of play and proposes some ideas to change funding policy and practice. It is not intended as an exhaustive study but is a simply short survey of how we arrived at the status quo. It seeks feedback to tell us anything important that we have missed and views on improvements we might be able to consider.
Feedback is sought by 24 August. See paper here