UK Film Council to be scrapped as part of quango mass cull

Written by Nic Wistreich on . Posted in BFI / UK Film Council

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Details of the surprise announcement about the axing of the UK Film Council amidst dozens of other arts quangos.

23.58 With the Facebook group inching towards 5,000 members, and the petition well over half that, the web is awash with comment and analysis. Andrew Pulver, Ronan Bennet and John Woodward all have pieces in the Guardian,  the BBC have rounded up some industry reactions and also put a few dozen UKFC short films to watch on Film Network.

18.05 The regional screen agencies are safe (for now), according to the DCMS in a quote published on Northern Media's website.

17.03 These Twitter streams are good places to keep up with latest developments and opinions: 'Film Council' and 'UKFC'. There's also a 'Save the UK Film Council' Facebook group and a petition.

15.31 Questions over - with hints that the axe may not have fully fallen and a clear sign that there will be further be consultations.

15.15 The DUP's Ian Paisley is asking about the UKFC. Jeremy Hunt replies: 'We have not announced a decision,  we have announced that we are considering doing this, as we want to hear everyone's views. The UKFC spent £3m on back office administration last year and we want to ask how that money could be better used to support filmmakers."

15.10 So that was a very brief statement. Nothing new learned. Except asking about England's 2018 World Cup campaign is 'a very good question'.

15.08 Now on to the World Cup 2018. What!?!

15.08 'Every penny to be spent frontline services and not on back office bureaucracy'. 

15.06 'A brief statement'. Says Jeremy Hunt. Finally. He does use the phrase 'considering the closure of the UK Film Council' as if to say there is still room for discussion.

14.58 Ben Bradshaw, shadow culture secretary is asking if the DCMS is lobbying for larger shares of the budget than other departments. Bradshaw notes there is no-one from the LibDem front bench in the Commons. Bradshaw, openly gay, is calling them the Brokeback Mountain Coalition.

14.55 Creative Partnerships (a brilliant scheme) being discussed in the Commons. May the axe not fall upon them. Vaizey at least acknowledges there lots of 'good initiatives on the ground'.

14.52: House of Commons questions continue. Lots of interesting questions on media ownership, the BBC and the Digital Economy Bill but not about today's announcements, presumably will come at the end after pre-submitted questions are asked. My connection keeps dropping as well, there must be a lot of people viewing it.

14.34: House of Commons Questions  for Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture have started. The BBC is taking top bill: http://news.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/ and dedicated page here.

14.04: John Woodward, CEO of the UK Film Council has sent an email to industry colleagues which includes a timetable for closure:

"The Minister for Culture, Ed Vaizey, has said that the target is to have the organisation totally closed down with its assets and its remaining operations transferred out by April 2012. That does, at least, give us time to honour our current commitments and, as far as possible, to continue our funded support for film while the DCMS  ensures an orderly transfer of remaining film functions to other Government departments and/or agencies. My one priority over the next few weeks will be to press the Government to confirm that the funding levels and core functions that are needed to underpin British film are locked-in.

"It’s important to stress that the Government has said it remains committed to both the current Film Tax Relief and to the principle of Lottery funding for film. To that end, our existing funded activities will continue to operate as normal while we work with the DCMS over the Summer to identify how they can guarantee both continuity and safe harbour for British film going forward.

"I completely understand that you will have lots of questions – but many of the answers will have to wait until the dust settles and the DCMS comes up with a new plan for film clearer in the months ahead. We will of course keep you abreast of further developments."

13.02 - UK Film Council statement. Responding to today’s announcement by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of plans to abolish the UK Film Council as one of 16 quangos cut by the DCMS, Tim Bevan CBE, co-head of Working Title and Chairman of the UK Film Council, said:

“Abolishing the most successful film support organisation the UK has ever had is a bad decision, imposed without any consultation or evaluation. People will rightly look back on today’s announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency. British film, which is one of the UK’s more successful growth industries, deserves better.

“Our immediate priority now is to press the Government to confirm that the funding levels and core functions that are needed to underpin British film are locked-in, especially at a time when filmmakers and film companies need more support than ever as they make the challenging transition into the digital age. To that end, we will work with the DCMS over the summer to identify how they can guarantee both continuity and safe harbour for British film.”

The UK Film Council - what it does and has done (from the UKFC)

  1. The UK Film Council – http://www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk/ – is the Government's lead agency for film in the UK, supporting the UK film industry, celebrating UK film culture and nurturing UK film talent at home and abroad. It employs 75 people.
  2. Since its creation in 2000, the UK Film Council has invested over £160m of Lottery funding into more than 900 films which have entertained over 200 million people and helped generate over £700 million at the box office worldwide, generating £5 for every £1 of Lottery money it has invested.
  3. Its support develops new filmmakers, funds ambitious new British films and gets a wider choice of films to audiences throughout the UK. It also invests in training British talent, promoting Britain as an international filmmaking location and raising the profile of British films abroad.
  4. Since 2000 the UK Film Council has funded such films as Bend it like Beckham, Bright StarThe Constant GardenerFish TankGosford ParkHappy-Go-Lucky, In the Loop, The Last King of Scotland, Man on Wire, Nowhere Boy, Red RoadSt Trinian’sThis is England, Touching the Void, Vera Drake ,The Wind That Shakes the Barley and Streetdance 3D, the UK's first 3D film.
  5. Upcoming films backed by the UK Film Council include Mike Leigh's Another Year, Stephen Frears's Tamara Drewe, Nigel Cole's Made in Dagenham, Joe Cornish's Attack the Block, Rowan Joffe's Brighton Rock, Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk about Kevin, Justin Chadwick's The First Grader, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, Peter Mullan's Neds and Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights.
  6. Current UK Film Council funding initiatives include:
  1. The UK film industry has a turnover of £6.8 billion. It contributes a total of over £4.5 billion a year to UK GDP, returns more than £1.2 billion to the Exchequer and supports a total of 100,000 direct and indirect jobs.
  2. The UK box office has grown by 62% since the UK Film Council was created (in 2009 it reached record levels of £944 million), with British films accounting for 23% of all UK cinema takings over the ten years to 2009.
  3. Recent figures show that in 2009:

The DCMS Announcement

DCMS improves efficiency and cuts costs with review of arm’s length bodies

26 July 2010

A number of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) 55 public bodies are set to be merged, abolished or streamlined as part of the Government’s drive to cut costs and increase transparency, accountability and efficiency, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced today.

Mr Hunt has proposed a number of changes, including:

Some key functions carried out by these bodies would be transferred to other, existing organisations. DCMS will do further work over the summer to finalise the details and timing of these changes. It will also continue to look at its other arm’s length bodies and explore further opportunities to improve accountability and efficiency. 
Mr Hunt said:

“The Government is committed to increasing the transparency and accountability of its public bodies, while at the same time reducing their number and cost.

“Many of these bodies were set up a considerable length of time ago, and times and demands have changed. In the light of the current financial situation, and as part of our drive to increase openness and efficiency across Whitehall, it is the right time to look again at the role, size and scope of these organisations.

“The changes I have proposed today would help us deliver fantastic culture, media and sport, while ensuring value for money for the public and transparency about where taxpayers’ money is spent.”

Further proposals include:

DCMS is also:

In addition, DCMS confirmed today that it intends to merge the National Lottery Commission with the Gambling Commission, subject to further consideration of the business case.

Notes to Editors

  1. Key activities currently carried out by the UK Film Council will continue, including Lottery funding and work in support of film certification for tax purposes. DCMS will now consider options for transferring those responsibilities to other organisations. As a charity, the British Film Institute (BFI) is not within the scope of this review, but the Government is committed to its long term future. DCMS will now consider how to build a more direct relationship between the BFI and Government.

  2. The merger of the National Lottery Commission and the Gambling Commission was announced by the then Chancellor in the Budget on 24 March 2010.  DCMS is working with both bodies on the merger which will improve efficiency while preserving appropriate and effective regulation of both sectors. 

  3. Any necessary legislative changes would be made through the Cabinet Office’s Public Bodies Bill, which is due to be introduced in the autumn.  

  4. Where proposed changes have implications for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we will work closely with them to finalise proposals.

The Ministerial Statement from Jeremy Hunt, in full

Monday 26th JULY 2010

Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s arm’s length bodies

The Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt):

DCMS is responsible for a number of sectors which people are passionate about.  From sports through to television, and live music through to museums, DCMS and its public bodies make a real difference to the quality of people’s lives

Despite being one of the smaller Government Departments, we are responsible for a network of more than fifty public bodies.

In my first few months as Secretary of State I have made it my priority to examine our network of public bodies critically with the aim of improving accountability, transparency and value for money.

In line with the commitments set out in the Coalition Document, I have been applying the Government’s agreed tests to each of our bodies: does it perform a technical function?; does it need to be politically impartial?; and does it act independently to establish facts?

This forms part of the work being undertaken across Government, and led by the Cabinet Office, to restore proper accountability for activities funded by public money. Public bodies which do not meet one of the three tests outlined will be bought back into departments or devolved if their function is necessary or abolished if not. This work will reduce the number of public bodies, increase the transparency and accountability of the remaining few, and ensure more effective delivery of public services. As a result of this review, I am today announcing my intention to make a number of changes.

This will include:

Further work will be done in discussion with the bodies concerned and other interested parties over the summer to finalise the details and timing of these proposals.

Where bodies are to be abolished we will look to transfer key functions to other existing bodies so as to continue to support our sectors and preserve the necessary expertise.  In the case of the Film Council, for example, this will include their current responsibilities for the distribution of Lottery funding for films, which will be maintained, as well as support for the certification process which is critical to the film tax relief, which will also be maintained.

We will maintain a strong relationship with the British Film Institute.

We will also continue to explore further opportunities to improve the accountability and coherence of our public bodies landscape.

We are looking closely at our responsibility for Heritage and the Built Environment and so are currently considering the role and remit of English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Additionally, we are considering the role of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and exploring opportunities to consolidate its functions. We will also be discussing with the Church of England the merits of declassifying the Churches Conservation Trust so it has greater operational freedom.

In addition we have reviewed the status of the two public bodies set up to help us deliver a successful games in 2012 – the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Olympic Lottery Distributor – and have concluded there is no need to change our existing plans to wind up these organisations following the Games.

The Olympic Games provide a huge opportunity to boost inbound and domestic tourism and we continue to explore the best way of realising our ambitious goals in this area.   As part of this we are considering the status, role and functions of Visit England and Visit Britain.  A final decision will be made on this in the autumn as part of the Spending Review.

Any necessary legislative changes will be made through the Cabinet Office Public Bodies Bill, which is due to be introduced in the autumn.

Where proposed changes have implications for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland we will work closely with them to finalise proposals.

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