Britain’s biggest independent producer, Thames TV, has inked what could be a groundbreaking deal with talent agency International Artistes.The pact provides for Thames and IA to jointly develop and produce television and film projects. IA represents some of Blighty’s most popular small-screen talents, including comics Hale and Pace, Jim Davidson, Cannon and Ball and Paul Merton. Thames will bankroll development of the projects, while IA will provide most of the ideas and creative elements. The partners will look to broadcasters–mostly in the U.K., but including foreign co-production partners where appropriate–to put up the production funds. Production chores will then be handled by Thames. The deal gives IA access to a regular source of development finance and production expertise. While many British artists, such as Rowan Atkinson (Tiger TV) and Jimmy Mulville (Hat-Trick), have set up their own production companies, IA is the first agency to enter the production sector. For Thames, which lost its broadcasting franchise at the end of last year and is now desperate to establish itself as a profitable independent producer, the deal gives it additional leverage in its relations with broadcasters. It is likely that other such deals will follow as it dawns on British talent that it is in a strong position in relation to the broadcasters. No figures are being attached to the Thames/IA link. Per Thames boss Richard Dunn, the partners would be lucky to complete more than two productions a year. Already, the partners have seven projects in hand, includinga drama that threatens to tell the “true story” of Elvis Presley’s death, biopics of showbiz legends Jack Hylton and Gene Vincent, and a sitcom in which Ronnie Corbett plays the Press Secretary to a junior member of the Royal Family.