UK broadcasters were accused of undermining the creation of a sustainable local film industry by a line-up of leading producers, financiers and international sales agents at The Production Show in London on Wednesday.
The broadcasters came under fire at the Movie Days conference, hosted by Screen International at The Production Show event run by its publisher, EMAP Media.
The major broadcasters - the publicly-owned BBC, parent company of BBC Films, commercial broadcaster Channel Four, which owns UK mini-studio FilmFour, and the private Independent Television Network (ITV) - stand accused of keeping prices low for the acquisition of broadcast rights to British films, for hanging on to too many of the rights of the features they finance, and for the dwindling number of foreign-language films they acquire
According to Elinor Day, deputy head of production at FilmFour, independent producers find it hard to build a slate of films as they are forced to yield most of the rights of their films to the broadcasters who finance them.
'Because the UK is so dependent on the broadcasters, the broadcaster takes most of the rights,' she explained, talking on a panel entitled Production For All. 'They need to retain more of the rights so they can build their own companies.'
The importance of sympathetic TV stations was highlighted at The International Perspective seminar. The low prices paid by the broadcasters for British and foreign-language films were accused of curtailing theatrical distributors' ability to buy UK rights to these films.
'The TV stations need to understand what kind of business they want to be in,' said Angus Finney, co-chairman of the UK's Renaissance Films. 'They are buying the same kind of rights for the same kind of money they did 10 years ago. It's a disgrace.'
Jane Barclay, co-managing director of international sales agent Capitol Films pointed out how TV sales underwrite the entire financing process.
'There is a specific reality if you are selling on an all-rights basis,' she said. 'You have to deliver a certain level of cast in order for the TV company to pre-buy, otherwise they will wait and see how it does theatrically. If it doesn't work well then you lose the safety net of television.'