In response to Wayne Dearing’s Viewpoint

Paul Robinson, CEO of KidsCo counters Wayne Dearings’ recent TBI comment piece ‘The dangers of drawing on subsidy

The argument that subsidised content is lacking in production and creative skills is fundamentally flawed. If productions are not working out or failing to hit their target audience, it is not because they are subsidised, it is because they were ill-conceived or badly executed in the first place.

Wayne Dearing states inexperience and non-performance as the potential risks of working with highly subsidised countries. However, subsidy and poor quality are not synonymous. Rather, subsidies actually help productions, which might otherwise never get off the ground.

Dearing makes particular reference to the Singapore and Malaysian animation industries, and their attempted ‘artificial creation of an entire industry’ by establishing bodies to subsidise production costs, and remarks that ‘broadcast values’ are smaller in these countries, which is far too hasty. For a start, both countries have some of the most impressive and professional broadcasters in the industry, such as Singtel, StarHub and Astro, to name a few.

As an industry we should be recognising their drive and determination to develop their creative industries, not avoiding them. Subsidy should not have negative connotations as it is not simply a side effect of a struggling industry, but is a characteristic of a territory trying to expand into one. Yes production budgets for animation have fallen, but so have production costs due to advances in technology. Today a show costing 40% less than what it would have cost five years ago is usually of the same quality or even better.

Canada is a great example of a country where subsidies have earned a country the right to become a global player. Canada punches way above its weight in terms of quality and volume of great kids’ animation. It now provides the, already saturated, US market with an array of highly respected creative kids’ shows, and is held in high regard as a world player.

Dearing also generalises when he states that localised Asian content is hard to sell internationally, due its alignment with local culture. It is natural that animators will inculcate values from their home into their work, and it does not mean that it is has to be inaccessible or unappealing in other markets. It actually provides other territories with a more diverse range of content and can educate viewers. Countries are becoming increasingly international, with growing pockets of different cultures popping up away from their native homes. There is a lot to be said for catering to these audiences as well as natives.

Boo & Me, now in its second season, is a great example of a co-production between KidsCo and Inspidea, which is based in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. The show features local values such as a strong sense of family and Asian fruits such as the jack fruit and durian. Boo & Me is a classic example of a culturally local show that is appreciated the world over. It is popular in Germany, France, Australia and the Middle East, as well as Asia.

If content is of high-quality and is well produced, the diversity can only be a good thing. The trick is for coproducers to work together co-operatively to create fantastic shows. Government subsidies do no more than enable territories to get a foot hold in the market and as champions of the world of creative animation we should be whole-heartedly supportive.