Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said in a written statement that there were “no current plans to merge” the two bodies.
After a lengthy courtship, the proposed UKFC/BFI marriage is off. In a written statement in Parliament yesterday, Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey stated that “There are no current plans to merge the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute.”
Vaizey’s statement appears to have taken both parties by surprise.
The idea of merging the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute was floated last August by the then Film Minister Siôn Simon. Many in the industry argued then that there was a “driving logic” to bringing the two public film bodies together, thereby cutting overheads and creating one outfit that could deal directly with government.
In the event, after months of negotiation between the two public film bodies, the merger has been scrapped.
“Neither side really thought that this was going to be something that was workable,” one well-placed source commented.
At the time the merger was first mooted by the Labour Government, Vaizey (then Shadow Arts minister) declined to give the move his support.
“This is a move mainly driven by finance, and we will want to ensure it has been properly thought through and that all other options have been considred,” Vaizey commented last August “If the move has not been completed by the time of the election, we willl review it.”
True to his word, Vaizey said yesterday that he was “planning to reassess fundamentally how the Government support film in this country. I want to make sure that we are supporting the film industry so that it is ready for the challenges it will face in the decade to come, and that we make sure every pound of public money we spend gives the maximum benefit.”
In answer to another question in Parliament yesterday, Vaizey reaffirmed his commitment to Government funding to the arts, including film, through Arts Council England. “Our proposed reform of the National Lottery Distribution Fund will ensure that the arts good cause (Arts Council England, Arts Council Wales, Scottish Arts Council, Scottish Screen, Arts Council Northern Ireland, UK Film) receives 20% of funds in future. Current projections suggest this will increase Lottery funding to the arts by £50 million per year,” he said.
“It’s nearly a year since the DCMS initiated merger discussions – since then the political and economic landscape has been turned on its head,” John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council, said. “We’re now in a different world and it’s clear from the Chancellor’s Budget that the next few months will see further public funding cuts coming the way of all sectors.
“We will therefore need to work even harder together during this period to ensure that film maintains its place at the centre of British culture. We welcome the new Government’s clear commitment to retaining the UK film tax relief and lottery funding for film, but only when we get past October’s public spending review will we know the full picture for public funding for film over the next few years.”