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U.K. Commercial Broadcasters Fall $57 Million Short of Required Investment in Local Movies

Philomena
"Philomena"

Film Policy Review Group publishes an update of progress, or lack of, from its report in 2012 into what should be done by the government and the industry to maintain the British movie sector.

LONDON – Commercial broadcaster ITV, the home to Golden Globe-winner Downton Abbey, Channel 5 and pay TV satcaster BSkyB remain firmly in the firing line for not doing enough to support British film, according to a hard-hitting progress report on recommendations originally made in the Film Policy Review Group report in 2012.

The update -- published as a sort of report card for the British government to digest -- puts cash demands in place.

The report "strongly urges the government to prioritize" getting the broadcasters to implement more investment.

"In particular, by the end of 2015, the panel would like to see BSkyB investing at least $33 million (£20 million), ITV $16 million  (£10 million) and Channel 5 $8.2 million (£5 million) per annum in original feature film production, as well as acquiring a greater number of British and specialized films," the could-do-better toned report notes.

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The report "reminds" the government that "it accepted and agreed" to the original report's whopping 56 recommendations, which included a call to arms for the broadcasters to do more to support British film.

While noting that both the BBC and Channel 4 -- both have stand-alone film-making units -- were actively adding to the British film industry's output regularly, report chairman Chris Smith said at the time that ITV, Channel 5 and BSkyB should look to do more.

The ongoing call for the broadcasters to do more comes as BBC Films and Film4 are both enjoying Oscar and BAFTA nominations success with 12 Years a Slave, Philomena, The Invisible Woman and Saving Mr. Banks.

Smith said: "The area of greatest disappointment [in the update] is the lack of any discernible progress on this since our report [in 2012]. We urge the government to take active steps to put this right."

The report did single out the British Film Institute, now the U.K.'s largest public investor in film fueled by lottery-funding, as making progress to implement its own "Film Forever" five-year plan, itself a year old now.

Smith noted there has been significant progress in many areas for the BFI "but there remains a lot to be done" while acknowledging that the organization's cuts in funding has left it operating with "one hand tied behind its back."

An independent panel of industry experts, chaired by Smith, published a report on progress made following its 2012 Film Policy Review on Wednesday.

The U.K. Film Policy Review group included expert contributions from producer Iain Smith, Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes and Big Talk managing director Matthew Justice among others and took more than 300 submissions from the industry.

The report also acknowledges "the significant progress" that has been made on a number of the panel’s original recommendations, such as the establishment of Film Nation UK (FNUK) to encourage young people to learn through and about film, and a number of initiatives to nurture new talent and skills, with the aim of ensuring the future success of the U.K. film industry.

The other area throwing up major concerns is the thorny issue of the need for resolution of the long-standing Virtual Print Fee, adopted to fund the cost of digitizing cinemas in the U.K.

The progress report calls for the BFI to set up a "task force"  with representation from industry and government to pursue "a cross-estates ‘Widest Point of Release’ (WPR) model as a starting point in its negotiations with the third-party consolidators, as well as a waiver for films with a WPR of 99 ‘prints’ or less."

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The U.K. government is also implored to develop an enhanced strategic vision for international film activity "which reflects the convergence of T.V. and film and the opportunities to promote the U.K.’s offer to a range of key markets beyond the U.S."

Smith said: "The Golden Globe, BAFTA and Oscar nominations have shown us yet again the strength of British film talent and creativity. And in recent years, we’ve had enormous success in attracting the rest of the world here to make their movies. But there’s still more to do to make sure our own independent British filmmakers can make their movies, develop audiences and sell their films around the world. A lot has been done since we last reported, two years ago. But there’s still a lot to be done."

Culture minister Ed Vaizey said "ensuring the film industry stays fighting fit is vital," pointing to figures that suggests the creative industries generate $13 million (£8 million) an hour for the U.K. economy.

The broadcasters were digesting the report's findings and had not responded to it at press time.