They Got their Tax Breaks….
The UK’s film and TV industries are pleased. In last week’s budget, they got their tax breaks.
The Right Decision?
Yes, it was the right decision. Too many of the UK’s competitors use them, with little chance of the UK’s being able to do doing anything about it. So the UK is simply losing the business. There is no single set of state aid or competition rules that can be applied across all the national jurisdictions involved – and they can all call up some kind of “cultural exception”, as do the Europeans.
But as the Economist wrote last week: efforts are also being made to persuade investors that creative companies are not such a bad risk. New enterprise schemes (like Seed) are in place to help creative start-ups. and private groups like Ascension promote the sector.
They won’t change the world but they are heading in the tight direction. Creative companies have to make money. Some do, more would be good.
..but more Work is Needed.
The media industry also needs to be careful. As we learned at a conference convened by the British Screen Advisory Council, the number of UK film starts is down as is the overall investment in film budgets.
Hollywood, too, has its problems, though on an utterly differ scale. (One of its biggest concerns is the decline of the DVD market and the shortage of replacement revenues from Video-on-Demand (VOD) and the internet.)
But care needs to be directed to this issue: in Europe there are huge obstacles to thinking big. For a start, that job has been left to Hollywood for years. If anything the Hollywood presence in the cinema and on primetime TV is growing. With the decline of the DVD window and the real risks of piracy, Hollywood is gearing up for day and date releases on multiple markets and working out new ways of bringing in the online internet window.
Hollywood is good at this stuff whereas most European film people are too busy just getting a film funded.
The second point is that the UK The UK film industry just lacks large players. It’s no good congratulating yourself on occasional hits like The Iron Lady or the King’s Speech. Does the change of business model implicit in the rise of the distribution via the internet offer a new chance to come from behind?
The trick for a country like the UK with a global language and a strong creative sector is to find a way to think big and not just to operate with in a national frame and a national subsidy system. The campaign for tax breaks was justified – we should not be giving away film jobs to other countries. But the European Commission and the Media Programme have their case too: how do we counter fragmentation?
Quite soon, so I am told, we will be hearing the Government’s reply to the Chris Smith film report. Let’s see if it can help us to find some ways to encourage our film industry to think bigger. I hope to be reporting on that shortly.