Last updated: January 16, 2012 6:44 pm

UK broadcasters ‘failing to support film industry’

A policy review has criticised ITV and BSkyB for not doing enough to support the UK film industry and called on them to make more investment in the sector.

The report, led by Lord Smith, the former Labour culture secretary, described the varying levels of engagement as a “clear obstacle” to growth.

“Broadcasters should do more to support British film. ITV and BSkyB are doing very little to support British films in terms of investment in British production and in their acquisition policies. Eighty per cent of all film viewing takes place on television,” Lord Smith said.

The report recommended that the government initiate “immediate discussions” with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and BSkyB to agree commitments of support. Should this approach prove unproductive, “the government should look at legislative solutions,” it recommended.

An ITV spokesman said most of its £1bn investment in programming was focused on original UK produced content. BSkyB said it invested in the movies that mattered most to its customers, including many from the UK.

A Future for British Film” makes 56 recommendations, including that profits from films be returned to production companies for reinvestment instead of to the original funding bodies. The panel singled out a special allowance for animation development.

“The aim of the panel is to empower the producer to secure more of a financial stake in its next film, this will help production businesses to control at least in part the means of exploiting their productions. This will make these firms more attractive to external investors,” it says. Lottery funding to support film will increase from the present £27m to more than £40m by 2014.

The British Film Institute should create a joint venture lottery fund to be used by partnerships between producers and distributors, the report said. Together with the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts and Arts Council England it should establish a development fund for digital innovation with an eligibility criteria “more open” than typically associated with film funds.

It called on studios and cinema operators to find a new model for digital print fees which it said were often “considerably higher than before” and were “limiting the availability of certain titles to a broader audience”.

Timothy Richards, chief executive of Vue, the cinema chain, said: “There is a huge opportunity for more films and there is tweaking to be done. The [fee] model does prejudice small producers.”

By the end of 2012 as many as 90 per cent of UK screens will be digital, with conversion of the entire country by mid 2013, according to data from the Cinema Exhibitors Association.

The nine-strong panel, which included Julian Fellowes, the creator of TV series Downton Abbey, also recommended the development of a British film brand, which could take the form of an annual British film week and a register of British film.

The BFI will help local film clubs and societies in areas of rural depravation or isolation. “There is a real concern that the Department for Education may be seeking to withdraw its support for film education,” said the report, “and we received a strong message” that that support must continue.

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