Letter from MeCCSA

A letter has been sent to Amanda Nevill and the BFI Board of Governors on behalf of MeCCSA (Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association), one of the UK’s leading educational bodies. The letter was sent before the BFI announced its Phase One plans.

Amanda Nevill
Director
British Film Institute

28/5/2007

For the attention of the Board of Governors

Dear Ms Nevill,

I am writing to express Meccsa’s grave reservations about what seems to be happening to BFI Publishing. We understand that a review is taking place which may lead to the closure of the Publishing section and/or its sale to a commercial publisher. We do understand that the BFI is experiencing financial difficulties and has ambitious plans in relation to the South Bank. However we consider that the demise of BFI Publishing would be a very sad loss to the education community and would be a major setback in fulfilling the BFI’s mission of promoting education about film, television and the moving image and an appreciation of the widest possible range of British and world cinema.

As teachers in Higher Education, we appreciate how central BFI Publishing has been to the formal establishment of film and television as suitable subjects for study at all levels of education. While there has sometimes been controversy about the development of media studies, we know that the BFI has sought to ensure that film, television and new media were studied in sophisticated, accessible and knowledgeable ways. The books published by the BFI feature on reading lists at every level and the commitment to formal and informal education is evident in the list which includes books and series which commercial publishers would not be able to support.

We know that many of our students have a passion for learning about moving image media and that they need to extend their knowledge through the well-informed, well-written and engaged work for which BFI Publishing is known. We strongly believe that publishing is one way of fulfilling the BFI’s commitment, which we share, for developing media literacy in the UK. This is in large part due to the specialist knowledge and understanding of the subject that staff in BFI Publishing traditionally have and the way in which they work with their writers. It is also the case that other publishers are much more likely to replicate rather than challenge the domination exerted by US media and the BFI’s emphasis is on British television, for instance, is hard to imagine outside its current institutional context. Rather than see BFI Publishing hived off, we would argue that it is a core activity which should be further integrated with activities such as education, the archive and the library.

We are also aware through our work of the prestige which the publishing division brings to the BFI through its international reach. We know through our contacts with other academics that BFI books are respected and used in educational programmes all over the world and that this promotes an interest in and understanding of British cinema in particular.

I hope that you will consider our representations and make them known to the Governors. We would also be happy for you to forward this letter to the UK Film Council if that would be helpful.

Yours sincerely,
Christine Geraghty
Chairperson
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Association


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