The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has hit back at critics of his plans to abolish the UK Film Council. In an article written for Sunday’s Observer newspaper, Hunt emphatically explains that the move was so that money earmarked for culture was spent on culture, not overheads.
“…If we are going to face budget cuts I have a duty to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent where it gets the most bang for its buck. It is simply not acceptable in these times to fund an organisation like the UK Film Council, where no fewer than eight of the top executives are paid more than £100,000,” Hunt wrote.
He continued: “Stopping money being spent on a film quango is not the same as stopping money being spent on film. In fact my second decision actually increased the amount of money going into film when I restored the lottery to its original four pillars, increasing the share going to arts (including film) to 20%. This is expected to increase lottery funding for film by around £3m a year.”
The Secretary went on to address two of the UK film industry’s failings: British film-makers giving away intellectual property rights in order to finance their films; and the disconnect between artistic Lottery-funded films and the audiences that pay for them.
In the plans to abolish the UKFC (first announced on July 26), Hunt also noted that the BFI would have a more direct relationship with Government. “The other decision I have made is to guarantee the future of the British Film Institute,” he wrote in Sunday’s article. “The role it plays in supporting our cultural heritage and promoting the cultural value of film is crucial. But we want to see them do this more effectively, so are looking to remove some of the red tape around what they do and give them greater operational and artistic freedom.”
Hunt ended his article with this conclusion: “Support for film through the lottery and tax credits will continue. But it must be right to address the structural challenges it faces and focus resources on supporting frontline film-makers rather than expensive bureaucracy. We should not accept the relative size of the British film industry as a fait accompli. Rather, we must step up our ambitions and make the UK the best country for nurturing and promoting its homegrown creative talent.”
There has been much outcry in the film industry since the move was announced. Last week, 55 high-profile actors wrote a letter to The Daily Telegraph criticising the plan to abolish the UKFC.
And Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood has also entered the fray, writing to MP George Osborne that the closure of the UKFC would impact US and foreign filmmakers as well. “The prospect of losing a valuable resource such as the UKFC is of great concern to us,” he wrote.
Hunt’s full article for The Observer can be read here.