The chief executive of UK producers body PACT John McVay says the stark choice facing the body has been to adapt or die.

The organisation is currently planning a major reorganisation which will mean laying off more than half of its staff, including its specialist executive for film.

The move has attracted criticism from film members, who fear that film will be sidelined in the change.

Given the level of concern, ScreenDaily gave McVay a chance toexplain the thinkingbehind the change.

His response was firmly focused on the future and he was bullish about the ability of PACT to help members in all fields in a rapidly changing business environment.

His words will not convinceall the critics but he called on producers to judge the changes by results: 'If we don't deliver, don't join.'

Screen put some of the key concerns of producers to McVay.

Restructuring is too brutal

The driving force behind the changes is of course finance - or the 'brutal truth of money' as McVay puts it.

'If we try to maintain the existing structure there won't be a PACT in two years time.'

But while the catalyst for radical restructuring was the loss of broadcast grants and levies last year, he saysit was in any case necessaryto become more focused on the most effective way to make an impactin a changing climate.

'The alternative was salami slicing and not knowing where we were going, The board decided to take a bolder step.'

McVay says it was decided to concentrate PACT's focus on its core skills in lobbying and business affairs/industrial relations and that meant creating a body that could deliver on a set of clear campaigns without having to be constantly focused on cost cutting.

He admitted the change would have an effect in the breadth of work that could be done.

'There are 1001 things that come across our desks and we will have to take a cold hard look at what things are really important and what are just nice to do.'

But he claims such thinking is necessary and can be more effective for members, making sure that what is done is done well.

McVay also said the review of fees, while driven by financial necessity, may benefit many members.

'We had an opportunity to come up with a more equitable and transparent pricing structure,' he said.

What that has meant in practical terms is big fees for big companies in the television business while not hitting smaller companies, of which there are many in the film business.

Television companies will wield an unequal influence

Despite the much higher fees for big higher companies, McVay insists that those who pay the piper more won't be calling the tunes.

The fear of some film producers is that bigger fees will buy influence leaving film issues sidelined.

McVay says, however, that PACT has retained the one member-one vote policy. 'It is a principle at the heart of the brand,' he said.

What's more current campaigns, such as the current one on the quality of children's television, are certainly not geared towards big money.

He said lobbying and campaigning proposalswill be considered on their merits: 'We will be focused on the most important things,' he said.

'We will judge what weconcentrate onbased on the strength of argument, the clarity of purpose and whatwe want to achieved.'

'It's the same support but delivered in a different way,' he says.

Film expertise has been lost

Perhaps the biggest concern is the loss of specialism in film. There will not be an executive solely devoted to the subject and there are concerns about the future of specialist groups.

McVay's response is that the expertise and lobbying power did not come through a single individual but through contact at the highest levels of government and the 'collective muscle' of the members.

'Influence is not really about having lots of foot soldiers I can pull in 20 or 30 of the best minds in the business among the membership.'

'We are as good as our members,' he said, pointing out that when big lobbying exercises, such as the one over the UK taxation system last year, it was powerful voices and collective action among the membership that counted.

'If we had the same circumstances arise again we would do the same as we did last time - pull in members who know what they are doing.'

He also said that what remains would be an experience core of people. 'Together we have the intellectual and political muscle.'

Much of the power of PACT in all fields comes through formal and informal meetings with government at the top of the organisation, rather than in specialisms.

'If weknow what we want to do and how we want to do it, then two people can be as effective as 20 people.'

'It's not the numbers at the table that count.'

There has been inadequate consultation

If there's one area that clearly irritates McVay it is the notion that decisions have been taken without adequate consulatation.

The adoption of the restructuring plan was unanimously recommended by the elected board which includes film members, he said and followed wide discussion with members.

'We kept the board up to date at all times. We had a meeting that was dedicated to the sole subject of finance.'

'There was agreement that we would have to change the way we work.'

He said there was now genuine consultation about the way that the future operation was managed but there could be no return to the past.

'We cannot go back because we have to live within the realities of the market.'

The future for PACT

The reality is that the world that is rapidly changing and that there is no choice but to adapt, says McVay: 'Change is difficult but it is necessary.'

There is a clear trend towards convergence, he said, which meant that it was already difficult to separate the interest of producers in one sector from another.

PACT has put much emphasis on increasing expertise and membership in new digital and interactive production.

'The question for members is always how we can add value to their bottom line.'

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