Amid a set of sweeping public service cuts announced in pre-budget estimates for 2003, the Irish government is set to reduce the Irish Film Board's funding by an aggregate 12.5%.
The Board's administration budget will be reduced by 1% to Euros 1.584m while its capital and training budget will be cut by 14% to Euros 9.153m [see table below].
While the Film Board lobbied for a repeat of this year's funding, it is not expected to seek to improve its allocation between now and budget day on December 4. Overall, government expenditure is to increase by only 2% in 2003 while inflation is expected to stay in the region of 4%.
Shocked at hearing the extent of the decrease in the Film Board's fortunes, Tania Banotti, outgoing director of producers' organisation Film Makers Ireland, commented, "FMI had campaigned for an increase in the Board's capital fund, so a drop of 14% is very disappointing from the industry's point of view, and will obviously have an impact on what the Board is able to do next year. We intend to fight this up until Budget Day."
In a statement issued in response to the announced figures Film Board CEO Rod Stoneman said, "These are clearly tough figures, but they must be understood in the context of the severe reduction in public spending and a difficult economic climate overall. It is as a result of the serious work of the new Minister and the Department of Arts that there is continued support for the development of the Irish film industry. We indeed are committed to the delivery of our planned programmes within these parameters - they will be workable."
Commenting on his reduced allocation to the Film Board, the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism, John O'Donoghue said that it "must be seen against a background in which the Board's funding more than doubled over the five-year period 1997-2002." He went on to reiterate his government's commitment to the strategic development of the film industry, and to the Film Board's role in that process.
Speaking to screendaily.com, FMI Chairman, producer David Collins, was surprisingly sanguine, "It's important to keep our nerve at this moment, not to panic, but to see it as a pause in the industry's forward momentum. We should focus our attention on the other potential areas of partnership for film-making and ensure the availability of private funding sources."
Irish Film Board Funding 2001 - 2003 (all figures Euros)
Year /Administration /Capital & Training /Total
2001 / 1.396m / 9.776m /11.172m
2002 / 1.600m / 10.665m / 12.265m*
2003 / 1.584m / 9.153m / 10.737m*