The UK’s new Digital Economy Bill plans to place a legal commitment on broadcaster Channel 4 to invest in film.
The bill, announced by the Queen as part of the state opening of Parliament on November 18, is expected to become law in the next few months.
“This is a prize we have been working towards for some time and are absolutely delighted that we are well on the way to achieving that goal,” said Tessa Ross, head of the broadcaster’s filmmaking arm Film4. “Channel 4 has supported film since its inception and volunteered a commitment to film in a new expanded digital remit back in March 2008.”
Film4 presently invests around $16m (£10m) a year in feature projects such as Slumdog Millionaire, which grossed $377m worldwide, and this year’s awards contenders The Lovely Bones and Nowhere Boy.
UK Film Council (UKFC) chief executive John Woodward hailed the measures. “Including film in Channel 4’s remit for the first time is a prize the UK Film Council has been chasing for many years,” he said. “Channel 4 has backed some great British films over the years, and strengthening its role in film production even further can only be good for the future of the UK film sector and UK film culture.
“For as long as Channel 4 has not been required by legislation to make films, Film4 has remained on a knife-edge. The new legislation will finally embed film at the centre of Channel 4’s public service remit.”
The Digital Economy Bill also contains a two-stage strategy to tackle online piracy. The first stage is legal action and consumer education about online copyright, followed if necessary by a second stage in which reserve powers would be used to introduce technical measures, such as broadband disconnection.
UKFC chairman Tim Bevan said the proposals should leave persistent pirates in no doubt that what they were doing was wrong and damaging to both the film sector and wider economy.
“Piracy hits film revenues, threatens jobs, and restricts reinvestment back into new movies,” Bevan said. “The digital film future is a hugely exciting prospect, but one obvious downside to a fully digital world is that piracy will be made even easier, which is why we believe strongly that these measures should be supported and introduced as speedily as possible.”