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Report bashes Beeb

Pubcaster told to do more for British films

LONDON — The BBC is failing the British film industry and must do more to support it.

This is according to an influential report by the culture, media and sport select committee on the pubcaster, published Thursday as part of the review of the BBC’s Royal Charter, which sets its funding and expires in 2006.

The committee called on the BBC’s regime led by Mark Thompson and Michael Grade to develop a strategy to support and promote the British film industry in tandem with the U.K. Film Council.

Under former director-general Greg Dyke the BBC had failed to acknowledge its responsibility to the industry, adopting “a cursory approach” to it, said committee chairman Gerald Kaufman.

“Funding for British film is extremely precarious,” he said. “Television has to have an important role in the funding.”

As a result, British helmers such as Mike Leigh had to seek funding from continental Europe.

The pubcaster also was criticized for screening Hollywood blockbusters rather than indigenous movies. Of around $155.5 million spent annually acquiring film rights, only $13.6 million went on British movies.

The BBC’s investment in film production amounts to $19.4 million a year, roughly the same as the much smaller Channel 4’s, which the committee pointed out had scaled back its investment in domestic filmmaking as a result of budget cuts.

Kaufman traditionally is hostile to the BBC, but Thursday he adopted a more emollient tone.

The license fee was supported, albeit reluctantly, as the best method of paying for the pubcaster.

Moreover, the committee suggested the next Royal Charter should be the last. From then on the BBC should be “placed on a statutory basis” — in other words, given the same footing as other U.K. terrestrial broadcasters, thus avoiding the “fits and starts” of regular governmental review.

“There should always be a BBC,” said Kaufman. “Placing it on a statutory footing would make it less dependent on the whim of government.”

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