Jun 7, 2011 Last updated on Jun 8, 2011 at 11:01
The TV and digital sector seems to be the great hope of a UK economy still struggling to keep its head above water - and new ways of financing Television, Film and other creative content are much in demand. The BBC is looking at how to protect its commissioned output with the freezing of the licence fee, companies are looking at new business models, and the UK’s Nations and regions are looking at the digital/creative economy as the next hope for growth and jobs.
This week’s Sheffield Documentary Festival is awash with sessions on new funding models, ‘Games, Stories and Brands’, ‘Clearing Rights and Creating Revenues’, ‘Foundations and Funds – Is this the Future?’.
The days of public service patronage by agencies and broadcasters are going – the talk now is increasingly about business relationships, and looking for new models to support and grow the companies that operate under the heading of ‘creative industries’. Like the film business pilots recently announced by Creative Scotland.
They include a new commercial fund offering debt and equity finance to domestic and international feature films either with Scottish elements, or to be shot or post-produced in Scotland; a new model to test documentary financing and develop crowd-funding; a scheme to attract sound post work on films to Scotland; and a model to increase Scotland’s ‘clout’ in UK cinema releases.
The Welsh government is also overhauling its creative industries funding, made much more complex by the turbulence created by the changes to S4C. Northern Ireland Screen has created a huge impact by attracting the HBO-miniseries Game of Thrones to film in Belfast, amongst many other TV and film investments.
Across the UK, agencies involved in developing the creative industries are talking as much (if not more) about business as well as cultural success in determining where they put their resources. Sometimes out of necessity because of dramatically reduced public incomes; but generally because the creative industries have always worked like this. There’s a lot of debate around what form public intervention should now take, particularly when the spending of every public service pound is questioned in the rest of the economy. How successful can public investment be at keeping jobs and creative opportunity spread across the country? Can it enable creative companies to grow and be profitable?
Northern Film and Media, the screen agency for the North East, recently announced that they would be relinquish the Screen Agency model to become ‘a freestanding private limited company. It’ll continue to work with indie companies and film makers, but as CEO Tom Harvey (pictured above) said ‘We realised some time ago that the level of public subsidy for sectors like the creative industries was unlikely to continue…I firmly believe that it is both necessary and desirable to break free of the traditional public sector business support model and become more self-sufficient.’
The BBC’s thinking, both for inhouse and independent production, is called its Network Supply Strategy – there’s a handy guide to what that means here and its impact is beginning to be felt. The physical infrastructure still looms large in the minds of viewers and taxpayers, and projects like MediaCityUK (above), Glasgow’s Pacific Quay and the mooted harbourside development in Bristol will no doubt continue to be under the microscope. A lot of what’s gone into that strategy isn’t as visible as new buildings however – it’s been about investment in talent, in commissioning, in establishing successful programmes in new locations (such as Casualty, soon to be produced from the new Roath Lock studios in Cardiff).
Above all it’s about generating new ideas. Recent weeks have seen some striking television produced from Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast – I’ll just mention Atlantis, the new series of Doctor Who, Secret Fortune, Field of Blood, The Secret of Scott’s Hut, Lip Service & Case Histories. We need much more where that came from.
Feel free to contact me (Krishan.email@example.com) about this or other aspects of BBC’s network commissioning in the Nations and Regions.
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