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Merger proposed for BFI and UK Film Council+ BFI's response

20 August 2009

Plans to merge the UK Film Council (UKFC) and the British Film Institute (BFI) into a single body to support film could benefit both the filmgoing public and the industry, Film Minister Siôn Simon said today.

An organisation with both a cultural and economic remit would mean public support for film is better coordinated, with more of the available funding channelled directly to frontline services. A proposed merger, designed to protect the key existing functions of both the BFI and UKFC while reducing gaps and overlaps, is now being considered by Government and industry leaders.

Siôn Simon said:

“Film in Britain is highly valued, both for its tremendous contribution to our cultural life and its economic success. Thanks to the work of the UK Film Council, as an industry, it contributes £4.3 billion to our economy, with British films taking 15% of the global box office last year. And buoyant attendances show that after more than a century, cinema is still seen as a great night out.

“The BFI is one of our great cultural institutions and cares for the world’s most significant archive of film and television. With audiences growing year by year, the BFI has proven the enormous public appetite for film heritage and world cinema in Britain.

“Supporting film to help the UK industry reach its international potential as an art form as well as a business remains a priority for Government. That’s why we want to look at how best to direct our support. A new, streamlined single body that represents the whole of the film sector will offer a better service both for film makers and film lovers.

“There are practical issues which we need to resolve to ensure that this proposed merger brings about the benefits we want without impacting on the work currently done by the BFI and UKFC. DCMS will now work closely with both BFI and the UKFC to deliver a better service for film.”

The overall remit of the BFI and UKFC will not be reduced. The proposal is for a streamlined organisation, which can spend more of its money on film and services and less on infrastructure, and in turn offer better support for Britain’s film culture and promotion of its film industry. Its remit would span securing investment across the sector, steering the industry through the transition to digital, championing the cultural importance of the UK’s film heritage and guaranteeing that the full diversity of film culture is available to all.

Tim Bevan CBE, Chairman of the UK Film Council, said:

“I welcome this idea and I’m keen to work closely with the BFI and the DCMS over the autumn to make it happen.

“The UK Film Council is a success story, but the truth is that when we were set up in 2000 a kind of artificial separation occurred – on the one hand the UKFC, which supports film and the film industry; on the other the BFI, which celebrates film culture and cares for our film heritage. And in my opinion it can’t be right for them to remain disconnected.

"The second reason I want to try to make this work is completely practical. We know that the climate for public funding is going to get much tougher, and it’s therefore sensible that we ask ourselves why there are two publicly funded film organisations in the UK. We need to look at the scope for savings across the board, to push as much money as we can into new film activity.”

Greg Dyke, Chair of the BFI, said:

"We view this as an opportunity to build on the strengths and successes of our work in recent years.
"The BFI is in good shape and having a very successful year, but we welcome this move if it enables us to further develop our potential to provide a better service to the public. The BFI is a much cherished organisation and has a vital and leading role to play in developing film culture and heritage in this country.
"We look forward to working with DCMS and the UK Film Council over the coming months to explore this opportunity."
A project board, chaired by DCMS and with equal representatives from the BFI and UKFC will now look at the proposal to develop a possible new model and governance structure. While it is expected that the creation of a new body for film, with a clear line of accountability and a single Board would mean efficiency savings, the primary objective is to improve the service to film, by reducing gaps in provision and areas where activity is currently duplicated by the two bodies. The project board will consider the practical and legal issues that would need to be resolved before such a merger could take place. It is expected to complete this analysis before the end of the year.

BFI Press Statement

The Board of Governors of the British Film Institute welcomes the DCMS initiative to rationalise the funding and governance of the way we support film in Britain, as announced today after a long period of discussion.

The new Film Minister has assured BFI chairman, Greg Dyke, that both the identity and critical cultural mandate of the British Film Institute will be paramount in this process.

Since its formation in 1933, by Royal Charter for the last 26 years, and as a charitable organisation, the BFI has preserved and promoted the nation's film culture and the current Board of Governors, as custodians of that heritage, welcomes this unique opportunity to embolden and strengthen the organisation.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE (www.bfi.org.uk)
The British Film Institute (BFI) has existed since 1933 as the nation’s cultural organisation for film.
It is an independent body with charitable status and Royal Charter.
It cares for the BFI National Archive and Library.
Activities include:
BFI Southbank and BFI Imax;
BFI Education;
Sight & Sound magazine;
BFI Film Distribution;
BFI DVDs;
books;
BFI London Film Festival;
London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival.
The turnover of the BFI is £38 million, of which £16 million comes from Government as grant-in-aid.

2. UK FILM COUNCIL (www.ukfilmcouncil.org.uk)
Since its creation in 2000 the UK Film Council has backed more than 900 films, shorts and features, which have won 299 awards and entertained more than 200 million people around the world.
Its support develops new filmmakers, funds exciting new British films and gets a wider choice of films to audiences throughout the UK. It also invests in training British talent, promoting Britain as an international filmmaking location and raising the profile of British films abroad. In addition, it funds the British Film Institute.
Films backed by the UK Film Council include Bend it like Beckham, The Constant Gardener, Gosford Park, Happy-Go-Lucky, In The Loop, Man on Wire, Red Road, St Trinian’s, This is England, Touching the Void, Vera Drake and
The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

Current UK Film Council funding initiatives include: 
the world’s first Digital Screen Network, which has invested in 240 digital screens in cinemas across the country, increasing film choice, bringing the 3D experience to a wider audience, and ensuring the UK has more digital screens than any other European country; 
over 200 film societies and independent regional film venues;
UK film festivals, including the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival and the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival;
Skillset, the UK skills and training industry body for the creative industries; 
First Light Movies, which has given 12,000 children and young people the chance to get involved in filmmaking; and
FILMCLUB, an after school club which gives children in 7000 schools free weekly access to classic and popular films.
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