A letter about the future of the BFI library and research viewing services, together with a reply from cultural programme director Heather Stewart, has appeared in the March 2011 issue of Sight and Sound.
Amanda Nevill’s recent letter to BFI staff:
TO: Employees at BFI
FROM: Amanda Nevill
BFI 2011 to 2015
Over recent months the management of the British Film Institute have been finalising the proposals under which the BFI will respond to the decision of the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) to reduce our grant. At the same time we have been thinking hard about ways in which the BFI can flourish into the future as the lead body for film in the UK. We still have much work to do in determining the full impact of integrating those activities transferring from the UK Film Council, but the proposals for the restructuring to the existing BFI have now reached a stage in their development where I am able to write to you explaining the proposals and the rationale behind the proposals and begin to share the ambitions for the BFI from now on.
The Financial Position
As you know, in the four year funding settlement announced earlier this year, DCMS’s total grant to the BFI was reduced from £16m per annum this year to £14.6m per annum in 2014/15. The cut in grant next year is £1m of which £500,000 is revenue and £500,000 capital. As we have already advised you this is only part of the financial pressure we face in the future. The contribution to the normal running costs of the organisation from the Screen Heritage UK (SHUK) programme winds down and we lost the similar benefit that we would have had if the Film Centre project had continued. This year we realised cash from the sale of a small part of the Berkhamsted estate, which we are unable to continue. If we add inflation and some other increases in costs and taxes, the revenue gap next year is £2m. If we were to do nothing this would rise to £4m in 2014/15, so it is important that decisive action is taken now to ensure that the BFI can deliver its strategic objectives, albeit on a smaller scale. But there is more than just a financial driver for change. Over the last five years, we have achieved a tremendous amount between us. We have completely changed public perception of the BFI. We have successfully transformed BFI Southbank. Our master film collection will be safe in a brand new state-of-the-art vault and we will soon be able to browse all the information about the BFI collections on-line. The range and diversity of the BFI DVDs are resulting in record sales, bucking trends, whilst our programme of film releases receives rave reviews. The BFI London Film Festival goes from strength to strength, beating box office receipts year on year, attracting increased levels of funding support and winning global admiration for its programme. The BFI IMAX is also now a major contributor to BFI funds and a really important channel for building audiences and industry relations. We now need to look to the next ten years.
We are entering a new era for the BFI, one in which we are the strategic lead for film in the UK, and internationally. We have to rise to this challenge. We will be leading on the development of a new film policy for the UK – one which encompasses archive, education and skills, production, exhibition and distribution. Whilst we support the broadest delivery of these policies, we also need to make sure the BFI itself sets the pace for transformation, transforming our Board, transforming our Executive and management capability, adopting a dynamic approach to new partnerships, investing in digital technology for distribution of BFI programmes and modemising delivery. We must ensure that we are working effectively, buying wisely and maximising our income. We must also be brave enough to embark on new entrepreneurial activities to complement the IMAX success. To achieve all of this, especially in the current economic climate, will mean stopping some of what we do now and having the courage to prioritise the activities that must be at the very core of a future BFI.
The following constitute the first phase of proposals which we believe will make BFI fit for the 21st century and flourish as a world class institution.
* A single voice for all our programmes. It is proposed that there be a new post of Director of BFI Public Programmes to lead a unified team of programmers across cinemas, festivals, distribution, digital and print. This would bring greater coherence to our cultural programme. It would give us economies of scale and make it easier to market to new and existing audiences. It would also be more effective to fundraise against. As part of this we propose to rationalise and focus the size and depth of our public programmes.
* As guardians of the greatest collections of film on earth, it is proposed that the Collections be directly represented on the Executive by a new post of Director of Collections and Leaming. This post would be responsible for enhancing the national and intemational leadership role of the BFI and its Collections. Over an initial period of nine months the new post would also be responsible for developing an investment plan for not only the BFI Collections but also other UK collections – Screen Heritage UK phase 2. This would include a review of the Berkhamsted operation with particular focus on the move towards digital restoration, access and storage.
* Whilst we are proposing creating these two posts, it is proposed that we reduce the total number of executive and senior manager posts by approximately seven. The full extent of the restructure proposals for the Executive and senior management team does depend on the integration plan for the activities transferring from the UK Film Council, as we determine the proposed leadership team for the next era. This we will not know until January, but we are proposing that the Director of Special Projects role is cut and that we return to a combined Marketing and Communications Director.
* We propose to continue our commitment to digital delivery. The heart of this programme will be putting more of our archive online. It includes installing more digital projection capability at BFI Southbank, and investing in our network and desktop systems, new customer tracking and ticketing systems. This commitment is essential to our future.
* The Gallery has attracted much critical acclaim since it opened and has played a significant role in creating BFI Southbank as a destination; however, when considering the investment in the Gallery against other areas in the BFI we are proposing prioritising areas unique to the BFI. We are therefore proposing to close the Gallery at the end of this financial year.
* The Library is very important to us, but it is attracting fewer visitors and is in need of investment. We propose to close the reading room at Stephen Street and provide new facilities at BFI Southbank in the space it is proposed be vacated by the Gallery. This would make the Library accessible to a wider public. Alongside this we propose investing to provide a new service of digital desktop delivery of materials not available on site. A smaller research facility for dedicated researchers would then be provided at Berkhamsted.
* Specialist magazines are struggling to compete with free online infonnation and our magazine, whilst doing relatively well compared to many, is no different. We propose to review the editorial and production of our magazine ‘Sight & Sound’; the review to be undertaken by the end of March 2011 .
* The LLGFF is 25 years old next year. We have already scaled it back to a seven day festival, and we will review it again in April 2011.
* We are proposing to reduce our overheads by making £500,000 savings in our support functions of Finance, Estates, Human Resources, Marketing and Communications.
* We have reviewed our procurement and are confident of achieving savings of £400,000 per annum.
*We propose to drive income up by £600,000 next year rising to nearly £2m by year four. This will include a review of admission prices at BFI Southbank and IMAX and for the festivals. We plan to build entirely new business areas and are targeting a net income from these of £500,000 per annum by 2015. We intend to increase our fundraising income by a further £300,000 per annum from next year – this is only possible if we are able to bring new focus to the BFI’s cultural programme. Taken together, these initiatives will contribute significantly to closing the forecast gap and, although not without risk, will help us avoid deeper cuts in services and jobs.
These proposals will, unfortunately, give rise to a reduction in posts and therefore redundancies. The reduction of posts is across the BFI and impacts all main sites. Redundancy selection criteria are under discussion with the trade unions and we have advised them of the possible redundancy pools (from which the provisional selections for redundancy will be made).
The majority of redundancies arising from these proposals will take place on 31 March 2011.
There are two separate formal consultation processes within the overall BFI 11-15 Proposals.
The first, Phase one – Executive restructure. This relates to the proposal to have two roles: Director of Public Programme and Director of Collections and Learning. We will begin fonnal consultation with affected individuals and collectively with the unions, on the proposed structure and where appropriate on any redundancy impact on the 16 December. This consultation will end on 15 January.
The second consultation process, which includes all other proposals will commence formal collective and individual consultation on the 31 January. This consultation will run until 1 March. This timetable is agreed with the unions.
The consultation will include matters relating to the proposed selection criteria, the proposed number of redundancies and any means of avoiding or reducing the number of redundancies and possible ways to mitigate the consequences of any redundancy dismissals.
As advised, to reduce the number of compulsory redundancies we are introducing a voluntary redundancy scheme, details of which follow. Once that process has completed in late January, we will be finalising the proposals for consultation. Where individuals are in specific posts that are identified as being at risk of redundancy, or are within a pool of posts, some of which may be at risk of redundancy, then this will be confirmed prior to commencement of the consultation. If you are identified as being in a redundancy pool this only means that you are at risk of redundancy and does not mean that you will necessarily be made redundant. We will make every effort to reduce compulsory redundancies – as described below.
We will consult on an individual basis with staff identified as at risk of redundancy and collectively with the trade unions. We will consult with ‘a view to reaching agreement’. During this time we will be holding meetings, discussing ideas, producing answers to ‘frequently asked questions’ and listening to all feedback and comments. At the end of the consultation period we will let you know how our proposals have been shaped by the discussions during the consultation process and what our plan for the future is.
No redundancies will be confirmed during the formal consultation period.
What we are doing to mitigate job losses
1. Voluntary Redundancy
We have an agreement to avoid compulsory redundancies where we can. The first step is to call for staff interested in voluntary redundancy to inform HR of their interest. The terms are identical to our agreed redundancy schemes. The BFI will decide which applications are approved and does reserve the right to reject applications made at its discretion.
Voluntary redundancy applications will be accepted from 16 December 2010 until 21 January 2011. The forms and guidance are on the Intranet. If interested you can submit a form to Human Resources indicating that you would first like a redundancy payment estimate to assist with your decision making. It is likely to take around three working days to respond to a request for an estimate. You should factor this in so that any application can be submitted by the 21 January deadline.
The BFI’s redundancy schemes are also on the Intranet at http://Websrvl/document library/bfi policies/staff policies
2. Pay Freeze
In order to preserve as many jobs as possible we are proposing that pay increases for all staff on BFI terms and conditions are frozen in 2011-12. This would mean no cost of living (COLA) award for the year and no increment increases in the year 1 April 2011 – 31 March 2012. The incremental scheme would restart on 1 April 2012. This proposal is subject to negotiation with the trade unions. The pay freeze on executive pay will continue. Our redundancy numbers are based upon agreeing the pay freeze. If a pay freeze is not agreed further redundancies are likely to need to be made.
3. Support Available
I recognise that this is a difficult time for many. Support is available through our employee assistance programme provided by Workplace Options. They run a 24 hour confidential counselling advisory and financial service and can be accessed free of charge by you and your families on Freephone 0800 243 458. We will also be arranging a series of workshops for staff identified as at risk of redundancy. The workshops will cover topics ranging from career counselling to preparing for interviews.
It is obviously important that you should be kept informed of progress in the consultation process and other developments as they occur. There will be local and directorate meetings and you are encouraged to talk with your local Manager and Executive Director. We have also set up a dedicated email address for you to use to submit questions, comments and ideas. This email address may be used for the phase one Executive restructure formal consultation, and in this period of informal consultation on the broader proposals. These will be collated and answered on a weekly basis and other relevant updates provided.
The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. We will also issue regular information updates to staff by e-mail.
Obviously, communication or information specific to individuals will continue to be delivered on a confidential and personal basis. Staff at risk of redundancy will have the opportunity to attend individual meetings to discuss their ideas and options.
I realise that the announcement made by this letter will give rise to many questions. Your Executive Director will be able to answer any questions you may have on the proposed restructuring, the proposed redundancies, and the consultation process. More detailed information will be made available as the consultation progresses.
Your co-operation and your continued hard work and contribution is very much needed during the restructuring and beyond. Only with that assistance can the project be managed through to conclusion and the successful future of BFI secured.
I hope very much we can all work together and I thank you in advance for the help and co-operation that I know you will all give.
British Film Institute