U.K. TV pact lacks support

LONDON — A government initiative aimed at persuading rival U.K. television distributors to join together in one “Best of British” world-beating combine is likely to receive little or no industry support.

Chris Smith, the minister for culture, media and sport, floated the idea at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge convention last week.

He told delegates he wanted to see all sectors of the industry — independents and broadcasters — exploring ways of working together to maximize Blighty’s performance in overseas program markets.

“Instead of everyone organizing their export work separately in bits and pieces, let’s look seriously at what we could achieve if we worked in liaison with each other, with all parts of the industry participating, and government acting to help the process,” Smith said.

But the proposal, similar to an idea suggested by the previous government, is likely to be dismissed by exporters of British television.

“If all the U.K. commercial distributors and the BBC joined forces, we’d still be tiny compared with Warner Brothers,” said a veteran ITV distributor.

“There are so many conflicts of interests and clashing egos that frankly the idea of us all working together is a non-starter,” said the distributor. “Britain already exports more than the combined might of France, Italy and Spain.

“If you look at virtually any market in the world, you’ll find that indigenous shows are still the most popular, followed by American and British programming. That’s not going to change even if we did all work together.”

A spokesman for BBC Worldwide said: “As Europe’s largest exporter of TV programming, the BBC has long recognized the importance of promoting Britain’s programming strengths abroad.

“We were interested to hear Chris Smith’s proposals and welcome the opportunity to discuss them further.”