Dear Mr Inglis
Thank you for your letter of 9 August to the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, following the recent review of DCMS’ Arm’s Length Bodies. I have been asked to reply on his behalf.
I can assure you that the Government is wholly committed to supporting the UK film industry, especially in these tough economic times. It will maintain the film tax credit, currently worth over £100 million a year; Lottery funding, including the film production fund, which currently stands at about £27 million a year, will remain and will increase after the Olympics. The Government is now considering options to transfer the distribution of these Lottery funds to other existing bodies, with a view to reducing administrative costs; and it will maintain key priorities such as strengthening the sustainability of the UK film industry and supporting its diversity. Going forward, this Department will ensure that support and guidance remain in place during any period of transition.
You may also be interested to know that the Government is committed to the long-term future of the British Film Institute (BFI), which of course plays an important role in our cultural heritage. Over the summer DCMS officials will discuss with the BFI the setting up of a direct, less bureaucratic relationship with this Department.
Although going forward the Government will want to consider policy priorities for Lottery funding, it recognises that First Light – to take one example you mention – is an important and successful programme that contributes to audience development and helps find tomorrow’s talents – two areas seen as priorities.
The Government is also very clear that one of its top priorities is to have a robust and more coordinated strategy to promote the UK as the best place to invest for film-making. Inward investment has been a massive success over the last few years, generating value for film makers from around the world, for audiences, and for the UK economy. The Government remains fully committed to its promotion and will engage with the industry in the coming weeks to discuss these points as well as others.
I hope this is of reassurance to you.
For me, this reply is a mixed bag. The BIG problem is that it doesn't address my major concern about the disollution of the Film Council... Who will decide what gets funded? There's nothing here to counter my concern that these decisions (currently made by people with years of experience in the film industry) will end up in the hands of a board made up largely of MPs and/or policy wonks. What's the use of having money available - more money, even - if the people deciding how it's spent have little or no relationship to the film industry (and, if precedent holds true, are likely to be much more conservative in their outlook on art as a whole)?
In terms of the smaller programmes that the Film Council funded (some of which I addressed in my letter) I am heartened to hear that the First Light programme will retain its funding, but it is perhaps telling that none of the other smaller programmes; the Festival Development Fund and the FILMCLUB initiative and most vitally the Prints and Advertising fund, recieve similar promises.
Overall, there's a lot of nice language here; "Over the summer DCMS officials will discuss with the BFI the setting up of a direct, less bureaucratic relationship with this Department." "The Government remains fully committed to its promotion and will engage with the industry in the coming weeks." We'll just have to keep an eye on how things unfold to see how true those words are.
All this said, however much I like or dislike this Government and their policies, at least they have shown a willingness to engage in some discussion on this issue. I like living somewhere where that's possible.