British biz ponders government cutbacks

Film and TV affected by reductions

The U.K. film and TV industry is weighing its options after the government’s comprehensive spending review, unveiled Wednesday, cut funding across the board as pols tackled the nation’s $135 billion deficit, the largest in Europe.

The Dept. for Culture, Media and Sport’s budget will be cut 25% from $2.2 billion to $1.7 billion by 2014-15, described by secretary of state Jeremy Hunt as a “good settlement.”

This will trickle down to a 16% cut in spending at the BBC over six years, while the British Film Institute will sustain a 15% cut in funding over four years.

At the BBC, the annual license fee will be frozen at $228 until 2017, giving the Beeb $5.65 billion a year (Daily Variety, Oct. 19).

As part of the deal, concluded in secret between BBC toppers and ministers during the past few days, the Beeb has agreed to pay for a range of extra commitments costing around $536.6 million a year. This will be funded, said the BBC, by making 4% reductions starting in 2013.

At the BFI, the cuts will reduce its grant pot from $25.4 million to $21.6 million.

BFI director Amanda Nevill said, “Over recent months we have been looking at the best options to protect our staff and all key activities, but the reality is that the BFI will have to change shape and rescale considerably over the next 12-18 months.”

In a harbinger of things to come, the DCMS last summer announced it would shutter the U.K. Film Council in 2012.

Since then, there has been increased speculation that government film funds would be administered by the BFI but paid out via the Arts Council, which, too, will undergo a nearly 30% cut in coin.

With the film industry worried about funding, Brit producer Jeremy Thomas has urged the government to re-enter European super fund Eurimages to boost co-productions and create a healthier Brit pic biz.

At Film London’s fourth Production Finance Market, run in conjunction with the London fest, Thomas said one issue that should be addressed in the wake of the decision to shutter the U.K. Film Council is the need to encourage Euro co-prods.

“There’s a lot of suffering in the U.K.,” Thomas said. “What we really need is resources.”

(Bobbie Whiteman in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

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