Ireland's film and TV drama production spend grew by 12% to $129m (IR£114m) in 1999, according to industry figures just released, although figures for the audiovisual sector as a whole remained static at $165m (IR£145m).

Speaking at the publication of the figures, John Cummins, chairman of the Audiovisual Federation of the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation (IBEC), described the Irish audiovisual sector as being "in the doldrums". "We have had total inertia in government policy on this industry for two years now, which is affecting output and confidence," Cummins said.

While spend on film and TV drama increased, independent television production fared less well, falling in value from $31m (IR£27m) in 1998 to $22m (IR£19.5m) in 1999. Feature film production in 1999 included Angela's Ashes, Ordinary Decent Criminal, About Adam, Saltwater and Borstal Boy.

The annual statistical review of the industry, known as "The Economic Impact of the Film Industry 1999" was drawn up by IBEC with a steering committee including representatives from the Irish Film Board; broadcaster RTE; the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands; and the producers' association Film Makers Ireland. Part of the annual review's brief is to provide a cost/benefit analysis of statutory provisions for the industry.

The review argues that in 1999 the audiovisual industry benefited the Irish exchequer by an estimated $37m (IR£32.2m) in terms of taxes and indirect benefits, at a cost of $25m (IR£22.3m) represented by taxes foregone on $69m (IR£60.9m) invested under Section 481 (which allows investors to offset 80% of Section 481 investments). Thus, the net return to the exchequer was almost $12m (IR£10m) in 1999.

A net return of this order would more than cover the cost of the other government initiatives for the industry including training, company development and marketing, primarily through the Irish Film Board. The Board, which is due for reappointment in February, will publish a document in early January setting out new policies and structural changes in the organisation.