Article in Private Eye

The following item about the BFI was published in Private Eye this week:

Private Eye No.1188, 6 July – 19 July 2007


“The BFI is underfunded. That is the real issue,” the director and British Film Institute governor Stephen Frears said last week, as the BFI begged for a doubling of its annual funding. “More importantly the archive is underfunded. That’s to do with films decaying and that’s a really serious problem.”

The archive is indeed in trouble (see Eye 1135). A mountain of old film needs copying and conserving before it crumbles to dust, not helped by the cutting of a third of the technicians’ jobs at the conservation centre in Berkhampsted [sic] in 2005.

However, bosses at the BFI haven’t let a shortage of funds hold up creation of the swanky “BFI Southbank” revamp of the National Film Theatre and the new “mediatheque” which both opened in March. Nor has it stopped them from spending on new management posts or feasibility studies for the “exciting vision” of a grandiose Film Centre on the South Bank in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Meanwhile the BFI has been trying to find an “academic partner” on to which it can foist shared responsibility for its library, the nation’s collection of documents related to film-making, with no sign of success so far. It is also planning to dismantle BFI Trading, which looks after book publishing, stills sales and so on. News that the book arm is likely to be sold to a commercial publisher has outraged film academics who have accused the BFI of trying to “steamroller through a badly conceived plan to solve a funding crisis”.

Institute director Amanda Neville [sic] insists the BFI’s library and archive will be “at the heart of” the Film Centre – if that happens, and if either collection survives that long.

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