The Digital Age has changed the way we produce and consume entertainment products. Everything is faster, cheaper and global. Big media conglomerates like Time Warner, Disney and Viacom have adapted to these innovative possibilities; at the same time new players have entered the stage like Amazon or Netflix.
Now more than ever, people are hungry for entertainment and they are willing to spend a lot of money for it.
Thanks to the digital progress, companies and individuals can develop, publish and distribute their creative goods to a global audience with minimal costs. So why are organizations like the United Nations not seizing this opportunity by becoming a major player in the entertainment industry? Imagine a science-fiction movie, a comedy TV-Show or a crime novel made and published by the UN. The revenues of all their products should be used to finance aid programs.
Here are 5 reasons why the UN should seriously consider this proposal:
1) Entertainment is a multi-billion dollar business
The UN is notoriously underfunded. Shortfalls and budget cuts for refugee aid programs or relief missions have become the norm. Meanwhile Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry report record earnings. Disney reached $55.6 billion for the fiscal year of 2016. $7.5 billion was raised in total box-office, thanks to the Star Wars franchise. Net revenue for video game giant Electronic Arts has been over $4 billion for the last couple of years. The global E-Book market is set to make between $15 and $20 billion.
Of course, the UN would need some serious investment to establish itself on the global market. But the results and the gain could easily outweigh the risks.
2) It’s (relatively) cheap
At the beginning, movies and TV Shows might be too expensive endeavors to invest in. Books; on the other hand, can be produced and published budget friendly in the form of E-Books. Additionally, many well known books have become public domain, therefore available for public and with no license fee or any other copyright issues attached. The UN could publish books written by Jane Austen, Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells and many more. Selling their work online, as E-Books, would cut the distribution costs dramatically.
Thanks to the mobile phone and tablet market, even video games can be developed much cheaper. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have become popular places for seeking financial supporters. While the UN is already using the website for their aid programs, a different approach could turn out to be more successful in long term, though.
Take the video game Star Citizen for example. Star Citizen is a space simulator that raised over $150 million; meanwhile an UN refugee campaign has achieved $1.7 million. People prefer to spend more money on a video game than for a charity project.
Therefore, the UN should develop their own games and sell them. The revenues can be used to fund aid programs.
3) Increasing awareness and stay social relevant
Brand recognition is not necessarily something the United Nations has a problem with. But the entertainment industry could help them to reach people who normally wouldn’t bother with the UN and its missions.
4) The entertainment industry is recession proof
Depressions or recessions take a toll on the economy. Many business sectors are struggling to survive during such troubling times. But there are few markets that are not only resilient to a downturn but also gain from it. Not despite the financial hardship but because of it. The entertainment industry is one of them.
Since people want to forget the glum reality, (and reality is mighty depressing these days), they are looking for a distraction. The entertainment industry offers them this distraction and makes them forget about the cold harsh world and all its problems. That’s why Hollywood is making so much money, because it knows how to sell dreams and illusions.
5) Becoming financial independent
US President Trump threatens to cut about $1 billion from UN peacekeeping funding. The Unites States pays for about 22% of the core budget and 28% of the peacekeeping budget. With other words, the future of the UN depends on the goodwill of its member states and their often questionable and flaky leaders.
Turning the UN into a media conglomerate would not only decrease its vulnerability to unforeseen budget cuts but also secure future funding for peacekeeping efforts.
The ultimate goal would be a financial independent United Nations.
The EU has already missed the opportunity to create a film industry on its own merits; the UN shouldn’t repeat this mistake but act decisively. Other NGOs like Greenpeace, Red Cross or WWF could also start their own entertainment branches. People rather spend their money on entertainment products than for charity. While this unfortunate reality can’t be changed, the circumstances can. Why should Hollywood be the only one that makes all the cash by selling dreams and fantasies to people all around the world? The philanthropic industry should claim a piece of the cake.
It’s time to give the wealth to those who would invest the money for a better and more humane future and not just to increase a shareholders bank account.
A word of warning though: If the UN should seriously consider future endeavors in the showbiz than it should avoid preachy content. Spreading awareness for schools in Africa or food supplies in war torn areas is certainly important and admirable, but people don’t necessarily pay money for that. The audience wants to be entertained, not lectured.
Author: Christoph Topitschnig, BA