The United Nations needs to create its own entertainment enterprise to sustain future operations.
The Digital Age has changed the way we produce and consume entertainment products. Everything has become faster, cheaper and more global. Digital technologies offer companies and individuals new cost-effective opportunities to develop, publish and distribute creative goods for a global audience. The rise of online companies like Amazon and Netflix is a clear sign for a changing media landscape.
Which leads to the question: Why are organizations like the United Nations not seizing this opportunity to become a major player in the entertainment industry?
Movies, video games and novels should be produced and published by the UN. A part of the net proceeds raised by the sales of these products could be used to finance the UN Development Programmes (UNDP), or programmes of other UN departments like the WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, …
Here are 5 reasons why the UN should seriously consider this proposal:
1. Entertainment is a lucrative business
The UN is notoriously underfunded. Shortfalls and budget cuts for aid programmes or relief missions have become the norm. At the same time, Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry report record earnings. The Disney Company has earned $55.1 billion in total for the fiscal year of 2017. The studio’s entertainment segment made over $8 billion, thanks to Marvel’s superhero universe and the Star Wars galaxy.
Rumors about a possible sale of MGM and Sony Entertainment persist. Even Warner Bros. Studios might be up for grabs, if the AT&T merger fails. The United Nations could buy at least one of them. Just imagine, James Bond, Superman and Batman fighting together under the banner of the UN!
But movies are not the only way to make big money in the entertainment industry. Net revenue for the video game giant Electronic Arts has been over $4 billion for the last couple of years. Author Earnings reports $1.3 billion in E-book sales for the last three quarters of 2017 (US sales only).
The overall numbers suggest a profitable market with potential for expansion.
2. It’s (relatively) cheap
In the beginning, the UN would have to make some serious financial investment to establish itself on the global market, but the gain and the benefits could easily outweigh the risks. If movies and TV shows are deemed to be too expensive to start with, the UN could sell books. Thanks to the digital progress, books can be produced and distributed budget friendly in electronic form. Selling E-Books online would cut the production costs dramatically. Additionally, many well-known books are in the public domain and therefore freely available with no license fee or any other copyright issues attached. The UN would be able to publish stories written by Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells and many more.
Even the development of video games has become affordable, thanks to the mobile phone market and a variety of streaming services. Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter are popular places to find supporters. While the UN is already using the website for its aid programmes, a different approach could turn out to be more successful in the long term.
Take for example the video game Star Citizen. Star Citizen is a space simulator that raised over $182 million; meanwhile an UN refugee campaign has reached $1.7 million. People would rather spend their money on the development of a video game than a charity project.
3. Increasing awareness and social relevance
Brand recognition is not necessarily something the United Nations has a problem with. Celebrities like Emma Watson are already supporting UN campaigns and social causes. But entertainment products could help the organization to broaden its audience and reach people who normally wouldn’t care about the UN and its mission.
4. The entertainment industry is recession-proof
Depressions or recessions take a toll on the economy. Many businesses are struggling to survive during such troubling times. There are few markets that are not only resilient to a downturn but actually gain from it. The entertainment sector is one of them.
Because the entertainment industry offers people a distraction and an escape from the cold, harsh world and all its tribulations. Hollywood knows how to sell dreams and illusions to the masses and so should the UN.
5. Achieving Financial Independence
The UN depends on the goodwill of its member states with their flaky leaders and unstable economy. An entertainment enterprise would not only decrease the UN’s vulnerability to unforeseen budget cuts but also secure funding for future peacekeeping efforts. The ultimate goal would be a self-sufficient and financially independent United Nations.
The United Nations should act decisively and not miss the opportunity to establish an entertainment enterprise. Other NGOs like Greenpeace, Red Cross, WWF or PETA could follow its lead.
People are more likely to spend money on entertainment products than on charity. That certainly doesn’t speak for humanity, but we can use this fact to our advantage. Why should Hollywood be the only entity making profit by selling dreams and fantasies to people all around the world? The philanthropic industry should claim a piece of the pie. It’s time to give the money to those who want to create a just and humane future.
A final word of warning: If the UN decides to enter the entertainment world, avoiding preachy content would be recommended. Building schools in Africa or providing food supplies to war torn areas are certainly important and admirable tasks, but people don’t pay money to watch that in a movie theatre. The audience wants to be entertained, not lectured.
by Christoph Topitschnig
About the Author:
- Studied Film & Media at the University of Vienna.
- Created the “Austria Alliance”, a short-lived political party.
- Founder of „Reading saves Lives”.
- Author of “Endgame – The Tragedy of Kings and Pawns” (eBook, 2018).
- Contact: topitschnig [AT] lesenrettet [DOT] com