British Screen Finance’s future threatened by bid

Council holding funding hostage

LONDON — The future of British Screen Finance is hanging in the balance after a takeover bid from the U.K.’s new Film Council.

The Film Council, which has been created to manage public funding for the film industry, wants to use British Screen as the foundation of its production department.

But British Screen, headed by chief exec Simon Perry, wants to maintain its independence as a privately owned body. Some staff, including Perry, will lose their jobs if British Screen joins the Film Council.

Funding issue

The problem is that British Screen is entirely bankrolled by a government grant totaling £4 million ($6.49 million) a year. This funding is now under the control of the Film Council, which has made clear that the funding will be withdrawn unless British Screen agrees to be absorbed into the new umbrella body.

British Screen’s shareholders — Channel 4, Granada, MGM/UA and Rank — are currently mulling the Film Council’s offer.

The other alternative is to seek new sources of public funding from continental Europe. British Screen has long positioned itself as a bridge between the U.K. and the rest of Europe, and this could become its primary role.

The Film Council wants to combine British Screen with the British Film Institute’s low-budget production arm and the Arts Council’s lottery unit, to form one production department.