UKFC/BFI merger plan abandoned

From the Irish Film and Television Network today:

Proposed UKFC / BFI Merger Scrapped

23 Jun 2010 : Source – Screen Daily

British Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey announced yesterday, June 22, that there are “no current plans” to merge UK Film Council and British Film Institute, thus ending a long period of speculation that the two bodies would amalgamate.

In a written statement in Parliament yesterday, Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey stated that “There are no current plans to merge the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute.”

The merger was originally proposed in August 2009 by the then UK Film Minster Siôn Simon and the idea was welcomed by UKFC chairman Tim Bevan and BFI Chair Greg Dyke. At the time, Vaizey, who was then Shadow Arts minister, declined to lend his support to the plan.

Speaking about the move, John Woodward, CEO of the UK Film Council said: “It’s nearly a year since the DCMS initiated merger discussions – since then the political and economic landscape has been turned on its head.We’re now in a different world and it’s clear from the Chancellor’s Budget that the next few months will see further public funding cuts coming the way of all sectors.”

In what has been described by observers as a day of “relief” for the British film industry, there were no shocks in yesterday’s British budget with no cuts imposed on Film Tax relief (just one small change concerning Multi Year Claims has been introduced) and Lottery funding will remain in place.

Minister Vaizey commented yesterday he was “planning to reassess fundamentally how the Government support film in this country. I want to make sure that we are supporting the film industry so that it is ready for the challenges it will face in the decade to come, and that we make sure every pound of public money we spend gives the maximum benefit.”

Earlier this month the Department for Culture, Media and Sport announced a £73 million savings contribution to reduce the UK’s fiscal deficit with over 50 per cent of the DCMS cuts announced coming from the film sector.

The UKFC’s Woodward added: “We welcome the new Government’s clear commitment to retaining the UK film tax relief and lottery funding for film, but only when we get past October’s public spending review will we know the full picture for public funding for film over the next few years.”

Proposed UKFC / BFI Merger Scrapped | The Irish Film & Television Network

BFI response to DCMS spending cuts

From the BFI website:

BFI statement on DCMS spending reductions

7 Jun 2010

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced a £73 million savings contribution to reduce the UK’s fiscal deficit.

In today’s challenging financial climate we understand the difficulty of making decisions of this kind and fully expect to play our part. We had anticipated that the government would not be able to afford investment in the BFI Film Centre at this time and knew that we would face a challenge on the project. We still remain committed to taking the BFI Film Centre forward.

We are relieved that vital monies to save the BFI National Collections are secure.

We are concerned that film is bearing the brunt. Over 50 per cent of the DCMS cuts announced are coming from the film sector. Film is a critical component of Britain’s future cultural and economic prosperity and we welcome the Minister’s commitment to reviewing government’s support for the industry. Our one plea is that this is done as a matter of urgency.

BFI statement on DCMS spending reductions | British Film Institute

BFI Film Centre funding scrapped

From the Hollywood Reporter yesterday:

BFI Film Center plans scrapped

Government pulls plug on $67 million project

By Stuart Kemp

June 17, 2010, 11:02 AM ET

LONDON — The U.K. government has pulled the plug on £45 million ($67 million) plans for the British Film Institute (BFI) Film Center here in the British capital and has also shelved plans for the £2.5 million ($3.7 million) BFI archive digital access project.

In an attempt at a silver lining to the cloud of cuts announced Thursday by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the freshly anointed government said it would still fund the building of a film store to safeguard the National Film Archive.

The Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport minister Jeremy Hunt said the cuts are part of wide-ranging plans to help reduce the fiscal deficit here.

“We are facing an unprecedented financial situation in this country, and it is essential that we act now to reduce the country’s debt,” Hunt said.

He said his department looked at a slew of plans with value for money and affordability in mind.

“This has involved some incredibly difficult decisions, but the cultural and sporting worlds, like everyone else, urgently need the country’s finances to be returned to a sustainable position,” he said.

Creative Industries minister Ed Vaizey also said the government plans to “fundamentally reassess how the Government supports film in this country” while admitting it simply could not commit to large scale capital investment projects such as the BFI Film Center.

“I want to make sure that we are supporting the film industry so that it is ready for the challenges it will face in the decade to come, and that we make sure every pound of public money we spend gives the maximum benefit,” Vaizey said.

The reassessment will take account of the impact of Government financial support for film including National Lottery funding as well as the impact of film tax relief.

BFI vote on strike action

From the BECTU website today:

BFI members vote on strike action

15 June 2010

Following the breakdown of negotiations on the 2009/10 claim for a cost of living allowance at the BFI, BECTU served management with notice of plans for a formal industrial action ballot.

That ballot is underway and the result will be known on Thursday 24 June 2010.

Union members are considering a challenge to the company’s decision to ignore a key part of their agreement on pay for the third year in succession.

No consolidated cost of living award

In 2007 the joint unions, BECTU and Unite, agreed a new approach to pay reviews at the BFI based on an annual pay and grading award, to recognise improved staff performance, coupled with a cost of living allowance (COLA). Since 2007 staff have been denied a consolidated cost of living award.

In January this year, the BFI indicated they could not agree an increase due to standstill Grant in Aid which is now a familiar excuse. However, this argument has not prevented appointment to yet more senior management posts including a director of digital on £90,000 per annum.

BECTU national official, Pat Styles, said:

“The BFI have indicated that they are unable to pay any COLA increase to our members this year – this is the third year in a row that our members have not received this increase.”

Best efforts to achieve an amicable settlement

BECTU and Unite have used their best efforts to try to achieve an amicable resolution to these talks; officials offered a three-year pay deal and even proposed agreement on additional annual leave in lieu of a COLA increase for 2009/10.

The BFI refused to negotiate a three-year deal. In a letter to all staff BFI Director, Amanda Nevill, sought instead to offer staff not in receipt of a pay and grading award, two days additional annual leave plus £400 in lieu of a COLA increase for both 2009/10 and 2010/11.

The BFI’s 25 highest paid managers earn between £60,000 and £109,000 per year, which suggests that around 12% of the BFI’s total salary costs are spent on around 6% of the workforce.

BECTU members and their colleagues in Unite, have insisted that the non-payment of a cost of living increase is unacceptable.

“Our expectation is that we will receive an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote in the ballot,” Pat Styles concluded.

BECTU members work throughout the BFI and have strong organisation at the visitor centre on the Southbank where they look after guests and provide projection services; in Berkhampsted, home to the BFI Archive, BECTU members are responsible for the grading and preservation of film stock.

BECTU’s industrial action ballot will close at 12 noon on Thursday 24 June 2010.

BFI members vote on strike action – BECTU

BFI Film Centre in trouble

From today:

UK Film Council Delays BFI Film Centre

By TIM ADLER | Wednesday, 2 June 2010 09:12 UK

EXCLUSIVE: The film agency has suspended work on the British Film Institute’s £166 million ($271 million) flagship project until the autumn. The new Conservative government is cutting the UK Film Council’s budget by 3% (£1.3 million [$1.9 million) for this financial year. This comes on top of the £25 million the UKFC has already saved from its annual budget to help pay for the 2012 Olympics.

Suspending work on the UK Film Centre will come as a blow to the BFI, whose biggest project this has been for years. The centre, which was due to be completed by 2015, is to house five digital screens, with one large auditorium. The BFI is putting brave face on things. It only advertised for an architect last month. “As far as we are concerned, we are simply going ahead on a different timetable this year,” it says.

John Woodward, CEO of the UKFC, tells me that all public organisations must stop spending money on new capital projects until the autumn, when government spending plans for the next three years will become clear. “This one decision will effectively deliver the grant-in-aid cuts that the government has demanded,” Woodward says.

There’s worse to come. The UKFC has been asked to model further 20% cuts in its state-funded expenditure over the next three years. This is on top of the 20% cut it has already made to its overhead. “Like every other part of the public sector, we are braced for further and bigger grant-in-aid expenditure to come,” he says.

However, one BFI insider tells me the UK Film Council board presented the UK Film Centre freeze as a fait accompli. “There was no consultation with the institute,” this insider says. If so, it doesn’t bode well for relations during the impending merger between both organisations. I’m hearing that the wheels are getting wobbly on that, with new culture secretary Ed Vaizey making non-committal noises about the merger. The official line is that the merger is still going ahead as planned, and that the new government is only just getting down to work.

UK Film Council Delays BFI Film Centre –