LONDON — The surge in support for the U.K. Independence Party — demonstrated at the European Union election last week — may have major consequences for the British film and TV industry.
UKIP, which advocates an exit from the European Union, took first place among British parties in the EU election, the results of which were just announced. It is the first time a party other than the Conservatives or Labor Party has come first in a national election for 100 years.
The UKIP vote surged 11% to nab 27.5% of the votes cast, compared with 25.4% for Labor, and 23.9% for the Conservatives, which forms part of the coalition government with the Liberal Democrats, whose support fell 6.87%, leaving it with just 6.87% of the vote.
There is a double threat to EU membership posed by the UKIP surge. First, if UKIP wins next May’s general election, then the U.K. will definitely leave the EU. Second, if the Conservatives win then they are committed to holding a referendum on membership of the EU, and based on last week’s vote there is every chance that British will vote to leave the EU as many Conservative voters are also in favor of a EU exit.
That said, the Scots have their own independence vote next year — on an exit from the U.K. — which could mean they rejoin the EU while the rest of the U.K. heads the other way.
The reason this matters to film and TV folk in the U.K. is that EU membership gives them access to substantial funding. For example, the EU’s MEDIA Program granted a total of Euros 100 million ($136 million) to U.K. films and film companies over the past seven years.
Development funding from the MEDIA Program backed both U.K. films in competition in Cannes this month, Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” and Mike Leigh’s “Mr. Turner,” while its distribution scheme has backed the theatrical release in Europe of many U.K. titles, like “The King’s Speech,” “The Iron Lady” and “Slumdog Millionaire.”
U.K. distribs also received funding from the MEDIA Program to release European movies, like Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet,” Michael Haneke’s “Amour” and Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty.”
U.K.-led training programs received coin from MEDIA, such as initiatives run by London Film School, the National Film and Television School, and Power to the Pixel, among others. MEDIA also backed U.K.-based markets run by Power to the Pixel, BritDoc, Film London and Sheffield Doc/Fest.
Then there are the indirect benefits, for example the MEDIA Program funds European Film Promotion’s initiatives such as Shooting Stars, which showcases European acting talent.
Looking forward, the EU’s Creative Europe program, which replaces the MEDIA Program, has a budget of $1.99 billion for the next seven years, and a U.K. exit would deprive British companies of access to this EU treasure.
If UKIP wins at the general election, there are other ways that they could influence the film and TV landscape. UKIP support lies outside the metropolitan areas, and their supporters could be compared to the Tea Party folk in terms of their view of society and the world.
UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, has been careful to weed out anyone with racist or homophobic views, and has supported gay marriage, for example, but its supporters are in favor of small government, are strongly anti-immigration, and have a conservative, with a small “c”, outlook.
So, how they approach the government-owned broadcasters the BBC and Channel 4 would be worth watching, especially as most right-wingers consider both organizations to have a left-wing bias. Matters such as film ratings and public funding for avant-garde movies could be scrutinized too by a UKIP administration.
When it comes to immigration, the film and TV industry relies on the free movement of labor between countries, but this is definitely not something UKIP is fond of.
So, there is lots to ponder for film and TV folk in Blighty, but not a lot of time.