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BBC urged to increase film support


In yesterday’s publication of the UK Government’s Green Paper on the review of the BBC’s Royal Charter, the venerable institution has been urged by the government to increase its support to the local film industry.
Endorsing the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s recommendations published last December in the report A Public BBC, the Green Paper stated: “The BBC should accept the Select Committee’s recommendations to put together a film investment strategy and to ensure the best UK films are made available to a wider television audience”.

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Other film related proposals in the Paper included: -The BBC’s film strategy should reflect other aspects of BBC strategy, including its commitment to original content, its contribution to skills development and training and the way in which it reflects the UK’s cultural identity and its different communities”.
-“The BBC should stay out of bidding wars for expensive foreign imports except where it is clear that no other terrestrial broadcaster would show all the programmes or films in question or that the acquisition would clearly contribute to a public purpose”. This particular proposal shows that the government has taken into account the plea put forward last September by the UK producers’ association PACT for a better balance between local and US films in the BBC’s film acquisition policy. Indeed, according to a PACT research, the BBC spent £61.5M on the acquisition of US films in 2003/2004 (ie 84% of its total £73.2m acquisition budget) against only £10M on British films.

The government’s Green Paper was hence welcomed both by PACT and by the UK Film Council’s CEO John Woodward who said: “This is a real step forward. The Green Paper underlines for the first time the importance of the BBC having a proper film investment strategy to champion British films. The DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport) is now joining up broadcasting and film policy in a way that’s never been done before”.
“Increased support from broadcasters is essential for a vibrant film industry in the future. As the prime public service broadcaster, the BBC should lead the way in giving television audiences access to film and investing in UK film talent”.

Regarding the BBC’s future role and structure as a whole, two other key proposals were made by the government: the replacement of the BBC’s current board of governors by a new ‘BBC Trust’ established to speak up for the licence fee payers, and the continuation of the licence fee (although other funding methods would be examined).

The BBC’s Royal Charter, the formal document establishing the corporation and defining its general objectives and functions is set to expire at the end of 2006. The government’s Green Paper will become a White Paper at the end of 2005 with firmer recommendations including consultations with the public. And all changes proposed in the White Paper will then be included the BBC’s next Royal Charter at the beginning of 2007.

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