Government report addresses industry concerns

Privatization of BBC Worldwide among issues

LONDON -- A partial privatization of BBC Worldwide, the pubcaster's commercial arm, a hike in the tax relief available for low-budget movies and a call to make camcording in theaters illegal are among the calls made Monday in a long-anticipated government report into the future of television here.

The report, published Monday by the House of Lords Communication Committee, calls for the BBC's commercial arm to be part-privatized to enable it "to become a major global brand for distributing British TV content."

The Committee also said the level of tax relief available to producers for U.K. movies with budgets of less than £5 million ($8 million) should be raised from 20% to 30%. The hike is prompted by what the committee called "problems faced by independent film makers in raising finance for their projects, particularly in the current recession." But the Committee fell short of changes to the higher tax credit available for bigger budget productions.

The report also poured scorn on the Digital Economy Bill, which does not include legislation against camcording.

Describing the absence of a law against camcordists as a "glaring omission," the report said camcording is "theft which ultimately does great damage to the industry and those working in it."

The report said such an activity should be made a criminal offence, falling in line with "most other countries in Europe."

At present, cinema operators can only eject people caught with cameras but they cannot confiscate equipment. A move to make it a criminal offence would bring the U.K. in line with the U.S. and Europe, where is it already against the law.

The report noted that one of the U.K. film industry's key strengths is its highly skilled workforce and called for an improvement in training for the film industry to make sure this is maintained.