We all know that best policy is not paying off the kidnappers. Countries that get in the habit of paying the kidnappers encourage the taking of more of their nationals as hostages. It’s a dangerous game to get into because it’s so hard to stop.
But would any country be so daft as to not only pay the kidnappers, but also deliver to them the next round of hostages as part of the bargain?
If you think no country would be so mad, think again. It’s how the film subsidy regime in New Zealand works – as it does in every other place that chooses to play the game.
Last September, The Herald’s Matt Nippert reported that the Labour-led government had decided to continue the previous National government’s film subsidy scheme. Minister Parker ruled out changes where thousands of jobs could be at risk because business viability was threatened by ending subsidies, and where commitments by the National government risked lawsuits if the subsidies ended.
So there are your hostages: thousands of workers in the film industry who would have to shift to other employment, or shift offshore, if the subsidies ended. And here’s the payment to the kidnappers: the budget estimated that New Zealand will spend $113.6 million on screen production grants targeting international productions this year, with $171.6 million budgeted for 2020 – or about $100 per household.
Meanwhile, a host of New Zealand government-funded polytechs and universities train students towards diplomas and bachelors in screen production, diplomas in on-screen acting, bachelors of design (stage and screen), certificates in applied filmmaking and television, and more.
The government is subsidising specialised training students for jobs in an industry that would shrink dramatically in the absence of further subsidies to that industry, and further subsidies to that industry are justified on the basis of the jobs that would be put at risk if the subsidies ever ended.
To put it plainly, the government is teeing up the next round of hostages.
Had governments been this smart in the early 1900s, subsidies for training in the fine art of making buggy-whips would have been accompanied with bans on cars to protect the jobs of the whip-makers.
To crib a line from an excellent ’80s Cold War film, the only winning move in the international film subsidy game is not to play.