UKFC/BFI in a quandary

Extract from article in the Guardian yesterday:

Quangos in a Tory Quandary
by James Harkin

Nesta isn’t the only organisation steeling itself for the political transition. It’s a great time to be Tory. The planned restructure at the UK Film Council and its mooted merger with the British Film Institute are taking place with more than half an eye on an incoming Tory government; at the recent London Film Festival, both courted senior Conservatives with invitations to their gala events. As soon as his appointment was announced on Wednesday, Archie Norman – the new chairman of ITV – felt impelled to make a statement saying that he wouldn’t “expect favours” from an incoming Tory government.

The danger is that the Tories might follow New Labour’s example. Bradshaw’s rousing defence of the principle that funding for the arts could be conducted at “arm’s length” from governmental interference would have been more convincing had his party not sought to infuse arts organisations with the idea that innovation could be pressed into the service of immediate social and political ends – as if Twitter could renew people’s interest in politics, for example, or public art could solve social ills. That instrumental approach is now discredited. The only people who benefited were mediocre artists and apparatchiks who could talk the talk.

The Tories, quite rightly, are going to have none of it. The problem is that quangos and arts organisations are still stuffed with New Labour’s appointees, many in the invidious position of having to butter up the other side. Most are so deeply wedded to New Labour that they have little idea about who they should even be cosying up to, with the result that many of those lunches are going to waste. Over a cup of coffee one source, who has worked for Nesta, told me that the whole thing is “unedifying, like an episode of The Thick of It”.

There is no doubt that an incoming Tory government should defend both robust funding for the arts and the arm’s-length principle. A civilised country needs solid and independently minded support for its arts, particularly the difficult, challenging stuff – the real stuff of innovation – that commercial sponsors tend to turn up their noses at.

But the Tories should resist the temptation to replace New Labour’s cultural leaders with their own. Tories are known for their charm, after all, but not for their taste. The irony of this shifting of chairs is that Team Cameron is still running a shadow operation in opposition, and is much too small to have worked out the finer detail of which quangos it plans to cull. In the meantime, however, they might want to beware the attentions of fairweather friends.

Overhaul of UKFC

From Screen Daily today:

UKFC announces sweeping reorganisation, new production fund

17 November, 2009 | By Sarah Cooper

The UK Film Council (UKFC) is proposing to merge its Premiere, New Cinema and Development funds to create a $25m (£15m) Film Production Fund, as part of a major overhaul of the organisation following its $41.9m (£25m) budget cut.

The new fund will be used to support all production but will have an emphasis on first and second time film-makers, and will also support experimental, innovative and digital film-making. The UKFC has launched a three month public consultation into the plans today (November 17).

The $25.1m (£15m) budget for the new fund is $3.3m (£2m) lower than the total allocated to three separate funds. It is understood that it will be led by four executives, who will be appointed by April 2010.

The plans also propose a new $8.4m (£5m) Innovation Fund that will promote new business models and aims to ensure UK film’s transition into the digital age; but other funds will be reduced or scrapped completely including the Film Skills Fund, which will be reduced from $11.7m (£7m) to £5.6m (£3.5m) and the P&A Fund which will be cut from $6.7m (£4m) to $3.3m (£2m). The digital archive fund will be closed down altogether.

Meanwhile, the Regional Screen Agencies look set to be amongst the biggest losers in the reorganisation – their UKFC budgets will be cut by 20% – but there is a new minimum target of 25% for non-London film production.

As part of the reorganisation, the UKFC will cut its overheads by 20% and it has confirmed that around 22 jobs will be cut. The UKFC’s total budget will now be $99.2m (£59.1m) over the next three years, down from $117.5m (£70m).

The UKFC has been receiving around 46% of its budget coming from lottery funds, 40% from government support through grants, and the remainder from investments and other sources; however, it has been forced to make cuts as lottery cash is now being diverted to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Tim Bevan, UKFC chairman, said: “The support the UK Film Council has given film culture and the film industry over the past ten years has been enormous, but we’re now operating in a very different environment and we need to adapt to meet the needs of a new generation of audiences and film-makers. To do that when the UKFC itself is having to find savings of $41.9 (£25m) over the next three years is a real challenge. But it’s now more important than ever to ensure we invest as much money as possible in film production, in creative and cultural excellence, and in helping UK film make a successful transition into the digital age – and that’s exactly what we’re proposing to do.”

UKFC chief executive John Woodward added that the reorganisation takes into account the economic downturn, the lack of finance for new production and the collapse of the traditional business model as well as the cuts in budget. He said the priority was to “protect the money for development and production funding”.

In other changes, any money recouped by the UKFC from their investments will now go directly back into the Production Fund. Meanwhile, a “producer equity” scheme will be introduced that will see producers being given a cut of the money recouped by the UKFC.

According to Woodward, the overhaul remains separate from the proposed BFI merger. The BFI’s budget is $27m (£16m) a year and if the merger goes ahead, there will be savings from shared costs, he said.

UKFC announces sweeping reorganisation, new production fund | News | Screen