Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Changing Times

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  • Sacha,

    It does seem to be outside the mandate

    So let's be grown-ups and change the mandate. Get the support needed for law and structural changes. It's not exactly rocket science, it's politics and other sectors do it all the time.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    If screen NZ took over selecting and funding music vids re-classified as soundtracks to short films i dont think there'd be the need to change NzoA's mandate. They could still fund music vids in conjunction with the new recording artist scheme or album packages.

    Brendan would be out of the picture but still in his job with considerably reduced power and not be constrained to support anything outside commerical radio hits.

    Just carve off the video funding budget from NzoA and snaffle some from 'outward sound' earmarked for international promotion/marketing.

    wins all round and how easy would that be ?

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    If screen NZ took over selecting and funding music vids re-classified as soundtracks to short films i dont think there'd be the need to change NzoA's mandate.

    I'm not trying to be patronising, but that is changing the mandate

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    I'm enjoying reading this discussion but just a point on this

    it is about the music biz that spawns so many embittered "failures and rejects".....

    I'd previously thought Jody Lloyd was the sole example,...

    Jody Lloyd is or was a stakeholder, ie a creator of cultural content and as such is directly affected by the conduct of The Ministry of Culture and Heritage, and its subsidiaries, The Broadcasting Commission via New Zealand on Air.

    There feels something wrong with non stakeholders sitting back in judgment as people like Lloyd go into fight for stronger support for what we are more likely to call NZ culture than the majority of that currently getting funding via NZ on Air.

    It takes a lot of courage to stick your head up and speak up against a govt organisation and Lloyd is by no means the only one.

    have a good read of this article from

    Vicki Anderson in last friday's The Press.

    Also check out the comments section.

    Paul Kean #4 11:32 pm May 01 2010
    Good honest article Vicki. We've all but given up trying for grants. That's The Bats and Minisnap. Last 2 bats album's and minisnap albums and ep's done without grants - a few tours to USA and Europe done without grants - several videos done without grants. Still we get great reviews, full houses and cd & merchant sales are not bad; especially on tour but with a bit of extra support we could market us and nz a hell of a lot better.

    There's plenty more like that there but one of the points in Ms Anderson's article is that people are scared to speak out about their treatment for fear of getting "the back of a blue suit" as she did.

    Is Paul Kean of the Bats and Minisnap another of your sole examples of 'bitterness and failure'?

    Cos from where I'm sitting (Overseas) The Bats and people like them are exactly what we think of when we think New Zealand, yet it seems the organisation in charge of preserving and presenting such things seems to be doing everything but in its rush to play the game of 'making Radio Hits'. Last I checked 'Heritage and Culture', and Broadcasting National identity had absolutely nothing to do with the act of commercial Radio Hits. It doesn't exclude them, it just isn't the focus of it.

    So the big question is, what the hell is going on there? How did they get so far off track?

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    a stakeholder, ie a creator of cultural content

    We're all stakeholders, not just those who create

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    I would say those eligible for funding are stake holders but you're right, in the wider sense,

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    but that is changing the mandate

    has anyone got a link to a copy of 'the mandate' so we can all see what you're talking about. I read the excerpts dd (dave dobbyn?) posted from the broadcasting act which seemed very contradictory to the actions of the organisation but is there an actual full description of how they can and should act? I'm sure many of you must have read it but I haven't seen it as yet.

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    From Vicki Anderson's column:

    It's well and truly time for new blood. If any organisation needs a shake-up and a good prodding by a group of bureacrats with calculators, NZ On Air is it.

    I don't think that's really what she wants. At all. Because, especially under this government, the "bureacrats with calculators" will be strictly focused on hard outputs. They take a very dim view of a broadcast agency funding material that doesn't get played -- even if it's from the South Island, unsigned or really, really good.

    She's been banging on like this for a while, right? This one from 2008 says this:

    Another funding concern is what those in the industry call "double dipping". This is where established artists such as Brooke Fraser, The Feelers etc, who already have financial backing from a record company, are granted $50,000 from NZ On Air to make an album with the understanding that the record company will equal that figure.

    For god's sake, it's called matched funding, it's often the rule in public sector funding practices, and it's recoupable. It's the basis of the scheme. I seriously doubt that anyone "in the industry" fancies it to be "double dipping", and if they do they're not very bright.

    Shouldn't such funds go towards helping talented unsigned artists? Isn't it New Zealand On Air's job to actively seek out such talent rather than waiting for the record companies to bring musicians to their in-trays?

    No, it's the job of record labels and managers to "actively seek out talent", not the fucking government. Arrggh. (Ironically, NZOA has been criticised at times for behaving like a de facto A&R operation. This is what she seems to want.)

    Why is a Government-run agency giving such large funds to artists already backed by record companies?

    Should I count the ways that that's likely to be more productive than giving a whole lot of money to someone who doesn't have a label and can't put up anything on their own behalf?

    It's weird feeling like I'm defending a system I think needs to change, but some of the arguments against NZOA are just lamebrained. It doesn't surprise me at all that they stopped taking Anderson's calls.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    This comment under Anderson's latest column:

    Thanks for great article on NZ music. umm..a few years back 1995 we won a competion South Island battle of the bands in Dunedin, we won, it and the prize was $5,000 from NZ on Air to make a music video... which we did, it was a lot fun making it. We had a local film maker and did the story plot ourseleves. The video turned out great and is on youtube under band Snort song is Poison. The band was about to go on tour and the video was supposed to be played to promote our tour...but, it never got played!! We called NZ of Air heaps of times about this and then they started screening our calls. then finally told us they lost it, which we never believed.. it was never played and a year later they found it and still never played it..,, to late for us!!!!

    Sorry if I'm missing something, but if you want your video played on TV, shouldn't you send it to a TV channel or something?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    How about a pool of funds that could be a real random arts lottery (of smaller amounts)
    - a second tier for those other than the usual suspects/applicants...
    Could also be tied to other incubator projects like RockQuest and Play it Strange...
    a kinda quo vadis, quid pro quo thang
    - loosely: where are you heading? here's a grant (or something) to produce something to get ya on yer way (encouragement) ...

    There also seems to be the equivalent of a Moore's Law going on - it feels like the more mediums artists/musicians have access to people through (and that is what is all about), the thinner the spread and penetration - signal to noise and all that -
    Also a lot of this is predicated on the "audience/masses" being interested in what the artist has to offer (or at least willing to give it a go)... whether in a live setting or on radio, TV or net... there are many other distractions...

    There is no one easy solution, but people need their creatives (artists/shamans), even if "civilised society" sometimes forgets this...

    So keep on working, with friends/ cooperatives, act local, be constructive - and humble - good fortune may follow (thanks Cookie!)

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5071 posts Report Reply

  • DD,

    The Broadcasting Act does not provide any mandate for NZ on Air. It merely has a section setting up the Broadcasting Commission and outlining its responsibilities, powers etc. The Broadcasting Commission's mandate is in section 36 of the Act. I posted parts of it earlier but here is the full section:

    36 Functions of Commission
    (1) The primary functions of the Commission are—
    (a) to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture by—
    (i) promoting programmes about New Zealand and New Zealand interests; and
    (ii) promoting Maori language and Maori culture; and
    (b) to maintain and, where the Commission considers that it is appropriate, extend the coverage of television and sound radio broadcasting to New Zealand communities that would otherwise not receive a commercially viable signal; and
    (c) to ensure that a range of broadcasts is available to provide for the interests of—
    (i) women; and
    (ii) youth; and
    (iii) children; and
    (iv) persons with disabilities; and
    (v) minorities in the community including ethnic minorities; and
    ca) to encourage a range of broadcasts that reflects the diverse religious and ethical beliefs of New Zealanders; and
    (d) to encourage the establishment and operation of archives of programmes that are likely to be of historical interest in New Zealand—
    by making funds available, on such terms and conditions as the Commission thinks fit, for—
    (e) broadcasting; and
    (f) the production of programmes to be broadcast; and
    (g) the archiving of programmes.

    (2) The Commission may also make funds available (on the terms and conditions that it thinks fit and, as far as practicable, in a manner consistent with its primary functions) for—
    (a) transmitting on demand; and
    (b) producing content for transmitting on demand; and
    (c) archiving content.

    Section 44 makes it clear that the Government is not going to get involved over funding decisions or anything to do with cultural matters. Most of the relevant parts of this section come from 2004 when the Commission became a Crown Entity.

    So you have an government organisation with a primary function "to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture" which is not directly or formally responsible to anyone but itself on issues of what is worthy of being reflected and developed. The Minister appoints the Board of Directors but his/her role looks pretty hands off as far as NZ on Air is concerned. It is ironic that politicians are specifically told to back off on issues of culture but so is everyone else (i.e. the culture itself), and decisions are left to a small body of "experts" on what has merit. Power to the people.

    Here's the full Broadcasting Act:

    http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0025/latest/whole.html

    Since May 2010 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Robbie Siataga,

    The main mission is to make sure that New Zealand culture and identity is well represented on the New Zealand airwaves so that we are not swamped by imported culture. NZ On Air is fundamentally a funding agency , mostly funding programs that will get played on radio and television—

    , we fund albums by bands with good airplay prospects; we fund nearly 200 music videos a year; we have a new artist discovery program where we seek out unsigned bands and fund a debut radio single; we fund networked or syndicated New Zealand music shows for radio

    under the Broadcasting Act, which is NZ On Air's mandate , we are also challenged to get more New Zealand music played on the radio,...

    - Brendan Smyth

    http://prod1.cmj.com/articles/display_article.php?id=84047737

    Whats happened is, to fit the format of commercial radio and to compete for funding, artists are forced to become local clones of imported culture to the extent that any sense of local identity and culture is lost. The more identical the clone to foreign culture the more likely they are to be funded. Once again let's take Dawnraid's recent output as an example.

    The points of difference that make NZ music easily culturally identifiable is generally what precludes it from being suitable for mainstream commercial broadcast so less likely to get funded. Take The Bats quotes in an above post as an example.

    The broadcasting act while acting as the mandate does allow for cultural content to be aired across the full spectrum of broadcasters not just commercial radio. Interpreted in it's narrowest sense to favour only commercial radio/tv is straight BS. Take this previous post as an example.

    http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,2474,hard-news-changing-times.sm?p=164220#post164220

    As i have alluded to, their is scope within the act for the broadcast of non comercial radio focussed music on TV via specialist genre themed shows with the same being applied to radio to the extent that stations previously deemed non commercial such as the B-net have since changed to fit the narrow commercial interpretation NZ on Air continues to adhere to.

    New Zealand on Air, negotiates and leverages domestic popular music artists onto commercial radio. In this process, state agents mobilise social networks to ‘join-up’ commercially appropriate artists to radio programmers. The success of this programme is based upon state agents developing an institutional isomorphism with existing music industry practices. Even so, popular music makers contest New Zealand on Air’s sympathetic policy settings by citing forms of institutional exclusion .

    http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?aid=1890072

    i cant get the full access paper. Maybe someone else can but just from the abstract...

    the institutional isomorphism manifests itself by NZon Air acting essentially as A&R/marketing/promotion arm of what a commercially profit driven record label would normally do in compiling demos in the form of 'kiwi discs' and employing radio pluggers to lobby stations.

    we produce the Kiwi Hit Disc, which is a sampler disc of new New Zealand music that we deliver to every radio station in the land every month; and we employ radio pluggers to promote the Kiwi Hit Disc at radio. All up, we spend NZ$5.5 million a year on promoting New Zealand music.

    - Brendan Smyth

    citing forms of institutional exclusion speaks to the effective blacklisting and silencing of critics to NZoAirs practises/personell and the implied cronyism to which NZonAir can continually favour certain people/labels/artists with funding with no accountability for its decisions.

    Since Feb 2010 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • DD,

    Ian, I don't think NZ on Air has any idea on what methods will achieve maximum penetration any more. Their thinking seems based on 20th century ways of doing things and takes no account of new media.

    All new media has to be studied and, because NZ on Air goes on so much about maximum return for investment by going the commercial route, there should be proper cost/benefit analysis done on all media. We need to know that $50000 spent on one single artist going the commercial route produces desired outcomes more efficiently and cost-effectively than $50000 spent on multiple artists broadcasting, marketing and distributing their music by other means. Until there is a proper study (and this should likely be ongoing considering the rapid changes in technology) nobody can say with certainty what works best.

    It's time for NZ on Air to back it's claims that the commercial route is still the best. Be accountable with the money.

    Since May 2010 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Andre,

    Would Dave Dobbyn's career have been more successful if he had government funding in the late 70's, early 80's?
    Should NZ artists seek commercial success or be happy with just "reflecting NZ culture". Many of my friends are alternative musicians who actively seek to avoid sound "commercial". Occasionally they produce music that is uniquely brilliant but a lot of the time many bands are experimenting and growing instead of trying to sound radio friendly. Over the years some of my mates have driven me nuts by not playing more commercial sounds BTW - but they are artists and it's their call. The $50k minimum should be reduced so that bands that show promise but don't just want to appear on radio or TV can be supported too.

    New Zealand • Since May 2009 • 277 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Mandate is broader than the law - and some of the established institutional arrangements will be harder to address.

    NZ on Air publish their mission and values and note how they invest. Audience size does seem to be used as a proxy for impact or effectiveness.

    Section 39 of the Broadcasting Act also seems relevant:

    Matters to be taken into account in relation to funding proposals

    The Commission, in assessing any proposal for the Commission to make funds available for broadcasting or transmitting on demand, or for the production of any programme to be broadcast or content to be transmitted on demand, must have regard to—

    (a) the extent to which the persons seeking the funding for the project to which the proposal relates have sought and secured funding or other resources for the project from sources other than the Commission; and

    (b) the potential size of the audience likely to benefit from the project to which the proposal relates; and

    (c) in the case of a project to maintain or extend the coverage of television broadcasting or sound radio broadcasting, the extent of the likely benefit to the consumers of broadcasting services affected by the project in relation to the cost of the project; and

    (d) in the case of a proposal for the production of any programme or content, the extent to which the proposed programme or content would contribute to—
    (i) the Commission meeting its objectives under more than 1 of the categories specified in section 36(1)(a) and (c) and (2)(b); and
    (ii) the availability of a balanced range of programmes and content providing for varied interests in the community; and

    (e) in the case of a proposal for the production of any programme or content, the likelihood that the proposed programme or content, if produced, would be broadcast or transmitted on demand.

    There doesn't seem to be anything there preventing funding associated with distribution through non-commercial networks, but practices over time seem to have established interpretations about co-funding and balancing "reasonable" audience size against diversity. Those need to change, particularly to reflect the way creators, industry and audiences actually interact today.

    However, I suppose it might be wiser in the current climate to seek changes that don't require the involvement of a Minister and government whose ideas about what should be done won't necessarily be in the interests of those disadvantaged by the current system.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Whats happened is, to fit the format of commercial radio and to compete for funding, artists are forced to become local clones of imported culture to the extent that any sense of local identity and culture is lost.

    In terms of what gets funded for broadcast, yeah. Clones of their existing formats are what commercial radio programmers want and will play. It wouldn't be such a problem if there wasn't such a gaping wilderness between Creative NZ's turf and NZOA's.

    But let's not overdo it, huh? Salmonella Dub, Ladi 6, Tiki Taane, the Phoenix Foundation and many more have all had more than $100,000 in NZOA funding. They're not exactly Dane Rumble. (And interestingly, the first three are from Christchurch.) The Naked and and Famous got a $50k grant in the last round -- which means that Jim Pinckney is putting up matching funds. I really admire the way he's developed his label and his artists.

    But when you'd stopped accusing me of something or other, Robbie, you made a sound point. Why should $5k video grants be tied to radioplay? If it gets played, it gets played, broadcast is broadcast. And that's an easy thing to change.

    I will put this Mr Smyth by means of electronic mail.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    There doesn't seem to be anything there preventing funding associated with distribution through non-commercial networks, but practices over time seem to have established interpretations about co-funding and balancing "reasonable" audience size against diversity. Those need to change, particularly to reflect the way creators, industry and audiences actually interact today.

    The bNet was formed precisely to make the "student" stations eligible for NZOA production funding, by presenting themselves as a national network. Brendan helped that happen.

    But the fact is that nearly all people who listen to music radio listen to The Edge et al. bFM has about 1.5% of the audience in Auckland and some of the other bNet stations would be a rounding error if they were in the survey at all.

    So you'll need to explain to taxpayers why so much of their money would be oriented towards providing content for stations they overwhelmingly don't listen to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Would Dave Dobbyn's career have been more successful if he had government funding in the late 70's, early 80's?

    To be fair, he had videos made for him by the state broadcaster. The NZOA grants replaced the rather haphazard system whereby BCNZ might or might not make you a video, depending on how they felt that morning.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    We need to know that $50000 spent on one single artist going the commercial route produces desired outcomes more efficiently and cost-effectively than $50000 spent on multiple artists broadcasting, marketing and distributing their music by other means.

    I understand what you're saying, but what outcomes are these? NZOA is highly accountable for its success or otherwise in funding local broadcast content that is seen and heard by New Zealanders. That's what it does. If it funds content that isn't broadcast, that's a bad outcome.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    By non-commercial networks, I also meant beyond radio - like that fancy interweb thingy. Should have said beyond commercial radio to be clearer.

    Be interesting to see the analysis of how audiences get their music these days, though I fear it might be skewed by agendas like so much of the copyright file-sharing data is..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    The Broadcasting Act does not provide any mandate for NZ on Air.

    Thanks DD. Good to see the actual material posted.

    There seems to be so much confusion about what's going on, including from our panel of experts and no wonder. A mandate that is no mandate??

    Now we can see what's actually written people will be able to focus in that.

    Vicki is (understandably?) confused in some of her statements and right on the money in many others. The number of artists including well respected and intelligent ones who are having problems with the system should not be casually dismissed. They risk a lot by speaking out, and as alluded to in Vicki's article in Friday's press "Top 10 questions I tried to ask NZ on Air this week" (which hasn't appeared in 'Stuff' as yet but is accessible via the libraries excellent newspaper service), here's a transcription.

    6. Following last week's opinion piece on NZ On Air in The Press I have received approximately 350 emails, phone calls and other messages from New Zealand musicians from around the world (Japan, Canada, Florida, Taiwan, Australia and New York) who, even though they are thousands of miles away, are too scared to speak out themselves. Why is the community you are supposed to be supporting scared of you?

    It's easy to attack these people but something must be up if so many are confused and or unsatisfied. They can't all be "sole examples of bitterness and failure'.

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • brownthenose,

    Another high profile voice of dessent from his facebook page linking to Vicki's article in support.

    Chris Matthews : Yup, I've bitched to anyone who'll listen about the nepotistic, anti-South Island bias of N.Z. On Air before; even though I'm hardly a 'New Recording Artist', that's the only funding round they have that's available to someone like me (Dunedin-based independent musician) and I've been turned down as many times as I've ...applied for their $5,000 grants, which was about 5 in as many years. I gave up sending them songs about 3 years ago, though, 'cos they obviously weren't ever gonna give me a grant despite my previous track record of making music that lots of people in this country liked. Back to the old computer for me, I guess, you don't really need a grant to make a recording these days, but it'd be nice if they gave a bit of cash to some of the young 'uns down this way who could do with a bit of recognition.

    Napier via UK • Since May 2010 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    @Ian

    How about a pool of funds that could be a real random arts lottery (of smaller amounts)
    - a second tier for those other than the usual suspects/applicants...
    Could also be tied to other incubator projects like RockQuest and Play it Strange...
    a kinda quo vadis, quid pro quo thang
    - loosely: where are you heading? here's a grant (or something) to produce something to get ya on yer way (encouragement) ...

    Yeah, all that stuff -- although, again, you're getting a long way away from anything in the Broadcasting Act.

    I reckon multi-use community arts venues like The Depot in Devonport are a really effective thing. Rikki Morris can lay claim to his studio there being something of a hit factory -- Finn Andrews left school, took his demo to London and got the Veils a record deal.

    The North Shore City Council leased the founders the space, they got Corrections to send some PD crews to help fix it up and they've used the PACE scheme as well. I think I'm right in saying that the Checks, Electric Confectionaires, etc, have spent their NZOA recording grants there too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Vicki is (understandably?) confused in some of her statements and right on the money in many others.

    I'm not sure it's understandable at all. She's the paper's music correspondent, and she's writing regular attacks on public agencies without knowing what she's on about. I think that's poor.

    In the earlier column I linked to, she spends a lot of time characterising the Music Industry Commission as a bunch of cunts who don't care about Christchurch -- and then drops in the fact that the MIC's general manager, Cath Anderson, is, like her, a trustee of the Christchurch Music Trust. I mean, WTF?

    But let's do a list: Bic Runga, Boh Runga, OpShop, Salmonella Dub, Ladi 6, Tiki Taane and Scribe. They're all Christchurch artists who have received $100k+ of NZOA funds. (I'd include Lawrence Arabia, but I don't know if he's had that much funding. He did get Outward Sound funding from the MIC to tour.)

    The fact that they no longer live in Christchurch -- and were obliged to move to develop their careers -- is not the fault of NZ On Air. Auckland is where the print and broadcast media; the managers, labels, lawyers; the opportunities to support international acts; and the largest audiences are.

    By the same token, you'll probably also have to get yourself to somewhere like SXSW if you want to get noticed internationally. It worked for the Datsuns, and they're from the Waikato.

    It's easy to attack these people but something must be up if so many are confused and or unsatisfied. They can't all be "sole examples of bitterness and failure'.

    I'm sure they aren't. But if you don't fit the criteria for broadcast funding, there's always the option of, y'know, just doing it yourself.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    From Chris Matthews' comment:

    Back to the old computer for me, I guess, you don't really need a grant to make a recording these days, but it'd be nice if they gave a bit of cash to some of the young 'uns down this way who could do with a bit of recognition.

    As Chris says, he's hardly a "new artist". And Robot Monkey Orchestra aren't likely to get mainstream radio play. And he doesn't need a grant to make a record anyway. So it's not really a disaster that he's not getting $5k of broadcast funding, is it?

    Are the younger acts in Dunedin who, as Chris says, could use a hand? For sure. Especially now that it's so hard to stay on the de facto funding stream for New Zealand music for so long, the unemployment benefit. (EDIT: Just in case anyone reads this as a sneering comment, it's not. In the old days, the dole really was a de facto arts grant for musicians, and it actually worked quite well.)

    I said earlier, that I think some of the grants should pass to the control of the MIC. But even then, there are going to be a lot of people who are disappointed by the process.

    Anyone who gives out public grants will be requiring guarantees from the recipient. And if it's more than $5k, it will still probably be recoupable and require matched funding, because that's the way industry development funding works.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

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