Letter in the Guardian

The letter below was published in the Guardian today. It has been copied to Amanda Nevill and Anthony Minghella.

BFI realignment threat to book publishing imprint

Letters, The Guardian
Saturday June 9, 2007

The BFI has announced that it has ‘entered into discussions with a number of external partners to take over’ their book publishing, in other words, sell off the BFI imprint, allowing only a short and internal 28-day period of consultation.

What about consulting with the BFI’s stakeholders? We write as authors who have been published by the BFI, who feel strongly that such a serious move should be openly discussed with both writers and readers.

We understand this is in fact the first phase of a ‘realignment’ of the BFI which is being undertaken because the organisation is in financial straits, and they say they are unable to commit the necessary investment to sustain their publishing operation. Phase two includes the relocation of the Library and Reading Room, and might involve its temporary closure – for a few years.

Something very serious is going on here. This looks like an attempt to steamroller through a badly conceived plan to solve a funding crisis caused by several factors, but essentially the result of handing responsibility for funding the BFI to the philistine and commercially oriented Film Council.

But the BFI is not a commercial operation, it’s a public body dedicated to a whole series of integrated functions designed to foster film culture at large. It has a worldwide reputation for its South Bank film theatre and the London Film Festival, the National Film & Television Archive, Sight & Sound, the library services (targeted in phase two of the ‘realignment’), the education department, and nowadays its website and DVDs. All of these are designed to support each other, and it will be a lessened institution if any one of them were taken away – not least its books on cinema and television, in which it is not only a world market leader, but has always followed a policy which succours young and new writers as well as established ones.

We believe that any decision about the publishing division and the rest of the ‘realignment’ should be postponed until the BFI has organised open discussion and taken cognisance of the opinions of its members and stakeholders. This must include the question of government funding obligations.


(Signed)

Prof. Michael Chanan, Roehampton University
Michael Witt, Roehampton University

and:

Prof. Richard Abel, University of Michigan
Thomas Austin, University of Sussex
Prof Tim Bergfelder, University of Southampton
Nicole Brenez, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
Prof. Charlotte Brunsdon, Warwick University
Prof. Ed Buscombe, University of Sunderland
Vicki Callahan, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Shohini Chaudhuri, University of Essex
Horst Claus, film historian
Pam Cook, Professor Emerita, University of Southampton
Glen Creeber, University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Roger Crittendon, NFTS
John Cunningham, Sheffield Hallam University
Margaret Dickinson, filmmaker
Prof. James Donald, University of New South Wales
Tony Dowmunt, Goldsmiths College
Prof. Richard Dyer, Kings College, London
Chris Faulkner, Carleton University, Ottawa
Kathe Geist, film historian
Claudia Gorbman, University of Washington, Tacoma
Michael Grant, University of Kent [M.Grant@kent.ac.uk]
Michael Hammond, University of Southampton
Prof. Sue Harper, University of Portsmouth
Sue Harris, Queen Mary, University of London
Prof. Susan Hayward, University of Exeter
Chris Holmlund, University of Tennessee
Prof. Dina Iordanova, University of St Andrews
Noel King, Macquarie University, Sydney
Mark Le Fanu, European Film College
Lucy Mazdon, Southampton University
Paul McDonald, University of Portsmouth
Andy Medhurst, University of Sussex
Prof. Mandy Merck, Royal Holloway, University of London
Michelle Millar, film historian
Prof. Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, Queen Mary, University of London
Prof. Laura Mulvey, Birkbeck College
Prof. Steve Neale, University of Exeter
Prof. Julian Petley, Brunel University
Prof. Duncan Petrie, University of Auckland
Alastair Phillips, University of Warwick
William Raban, filmmaker
Prof. Keith Reader, Glasgow University
Al Rees, Royal College of Art
Prof. Sam Rohdie, University of Central Florida
Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic
Isabel Santaolalla, Roehampton University
Amy Sargeant, University of Warwick
Prof. Sarah Street, Bristol University
Julian Stringer, University of Nottingham
Andrew Spicer, University of the West of England
Richard Taylor, Emeritus Professor, Swansea University
Michael Temple, Birkbeck College
Stephen Teo, National University of Singapore
Nuria Triana Toribio, University of Manchester
Prof. Ginette Vincendeau, King’s College London
Michael Williams, University of Southampton


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