Financial relief

By Richard Middleton 16-03-2016

Brazil’s ailing economy might not be providing much to its citizens in the way of opportunities right now but its current malaise does at least bring one issue into clear relief.

The revolution in the country’s pay TV sector nearly five years ago caused consternation and delight in equal measure as production companies faced a bounty of opportunity provided by the enactment of Law 12.485.

Local content quotas were introduced and an industry-wide tax was brought in that funnels around US$250m each year from operators to help support local production. It powered an industry growth spurt and is seen as focusing international interest and attention on the country’s production sector, and helping local companies forge new links with producers abroad.

The new quotas not only provided finance to the indie sector but also drove more ambitious productions, and led to shows like US$12m period drama Red Brazil (2×100’). The 2013 mini was a copro between Rio de Janeiro-based Conspiração Filmes, Pampa Films (France), CD Films (Canada), France Télévisions, Globo Filmes (Brazil) and Rio Filme (Brazil).

And the appetite for international coproduction continues. Only last weekUK producers’ trade body Pact signed an agreement with the Brazilian Film Commission Network to promote the coproduction of films, television and other audiovisual content by Brazilian and UK filmmakers, as well as encouraging on-location filming in Brazil.

2013 period miniseries Red Brazil

Indeed, the financial support delivered straight into the foundations of the Brazilian production sector via the Condecine (Contribution to the Development of the National Film Industry) is widely seen to have been hugely successful – making any reductions or changes all the more worrisome, particularly at a time of macro economic flux.

Yet that is what producers faced. A series of rulings from federal courts over recent months had threatened the amount of funding coming from a union of telcos known as SindiTelebrasil, which had argued that its members should be exempt from paying as they are removed from the production business.

So it was a welcome relief when Brazilian producers, many of whom had been at the Rio Content Market last week, found out that the country’s Supreme Court had overturned those earlier decisions.

Indeed, the caipirinhas were perhaps being consumed even more gleefully each evening here as locals reflected on the decision to put the local production sector and all its constituent parts above those of what is often seen as the all consuming interests of big telco business.

Marco Altberg

Marco Altberg, president of the Association of Independent Brazilian TV Producers, summed up many producers’ thoughts when he described the “mess” created by earlier rulings that had threatened the funding scheme.

But he also drew attention to the “support and protection” of the pay TV reforms and the wider impact they have had, with numerous domestic shows making their way onto Brazilian screens. These have proven the uplift in both the country’s production sector and audience expectations of local content, much of which has been in evidence at the market in Rio, attended by 3,700 people from around the world. It also seems the pay TV sector has benefitted, given that their subscription numbers had been soaring until recent months.

That situation is now, of course, changing and the nuances of what had been a booming pay TV sector within the wider context of a struggling economy are yet to be born out.

Unemployment in October was up by more than 40% on the same time last year, with around nine million people out of work, while inflation is at a 12-year high of over 10% – hardly conducive conditions for pay TV companies to secure more subscriptions.

But the supreme court’s decision means producers have not had the rug pulled from beneath them at a time when they can perhaps least afford it. Brazil’s production sector and the wider TV industry are undoubtedly negotiating turbulent waters but it’s clear – for now at least – that the successful reform and support mechanisms made in the good times will not become another victim of the country’s wider economic woes.

Fonte: C21