Cake sales for public broadcasting?

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently it has been revealed that the Concert Programme has applied for charitable status in an attempt to secure future funding. This is a further step in the erosion of Public Broadcasting and the wider erosion of arts funding in this country. When combined with the cuts already in place at RNZ and the impending death of TVNZ7 Public Broadcasting is being allowed to wilt on the vine. This may seem to be removed from actors to some extent but it is Public Broadcasting that is supposed to nurture the commercially riskier projects and these projects, in turn, nurture and grow industry professionals who go on to provide further work for all sorts of creative professionals, actors included.

What also happens, when Concert Radio becomes a charity, is that a big and well-perceived player enters the charity fundraising game. The size of the pot doesn’t increase but a large new applicant comes in and can only serve to shoulder smaller players aside as the competition increases significantly for the already existing thinly spread funds.

The dismantling of Public Broadcasting can also be seen in the sale of Avalon Studios in the Hutt Valley. This is a fantastic resource, funded by decades of broadcasting fees, and being allowed to largely rot because of the inconvenience of its location. There is no doubting the quality of its equipment or of the skeleton staff who remain but the fact is – Avalon Studios is not in Auckland where TVNZ wishes to make its television and so it is surplus to requirements. There is every likelihood that it could be purchased by overseas interests or even pulled apart for another use entirely and lost forever.

And funding for bodies like the Film Commission and Creative NZ are also changing and tightening. This means that there is less funding available to nurture less established professionals and foster their growth. An increasing commercial imperative on funding bodies for projects to be commercially successful also takes away any chance that risks will be taken on less than “sure things”.

All this limits opportunities for us, the performers, to have opportunities to work, to collaborate with fellow professionals and to grow and develop. We need to be aware of what is happening around us. True, with the events in the South and around the world we are in “interesting times” but by starving organisations like the Film Commission, Concert Radio, the NZSO and smaller groups a message is being sent out that the arts are not important.

But what will happen is that much of the growth that is being played on on the world stage – that we are a creative and vibrant nation of world-beating lateral thinkers – will be wasted. Its true that the arts sector can’t expect everything to be done for it but we are important. As actors we need to be aware of what is going on and looking for ways to help stop the trend.

The arts, especially live performance, provides a connection with other people through the shared experience of being an audience and the interaction between performer and audience that many people have no chance anymore to experience. When one of the many causes being provided for the violence happening in Britain right now is that people are becoming increasingly isolated from each other surely any experience that is directly shared between human beings is good. It would be naive and pretentious to argue that the arts alone is a solution to these sorts of problems in society but surely anything that encourages a shared experience that takes you out of your own world for a period of time needs to be encouraged.

Which is why the thought of once proud public arts institutions having to go cap-in-hand to the community is not a comfortable thought to deal with.

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