film policy

film policy
   The British film industry has won many critical awards, but is hindered by a weak infrastructure and a lack of investment, despite relative stability in the 1990s and isolated successes such as Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). The government has legislated with a view to avoiding economic dependence on subsidies or quotas while supporting non-commercial activities, and has encountered criticism for not providing sufficient support in an industry dominated by the USA. Coinciding with British Film Year, the government reorganized the industry with the 1985 Film Act. This opened up the industry to market forces with measures such as the abolition of the Eady levy on cinema admissions and the phasing out of the 1979 capital allowances, policies which did little to curb the decline in production. This was designed to create an independent and competitive film industry, yet, due to the lack of investment in a high-risk industry, only support from television, especially Channel 4 Films, kept the industry alive. The issue was left until the 1990 Downing Street Seminar which examined ways of promoting British film abroad and making the industry more competitive.
   Policy was finally reassessed with the June 1995 Policy Paper and the setting up of the Middleton Committee to advise on the financing of the film industry and how to encourage investment. The Committee recommended the creation of vertically integrated studios to improve distribution and spread the risks through a portfolio of films, the rejoining of Eurimages, a European production fund, and tax breaks, including the removal of the withholding tax on foreign artists. The subsequent government Policy Paper was criticized as being too little to relaunch the industry, with the lack of tax breaks proving a contentious issue given the success of such a policy in Ireland. Several new measures were introduced by the government. There was to be a London Film Commission to promote the capital, money to support initiatives for Cinema 100 and a feasibility study into a West End Showcase showing British Films. Money from the National Lottery was made available to compensate for the reduced government grant, subject to a successful application. These measures were meant to complement the government funding already in place through the British Film Institute (BFI), British Screen, the National Film and Television School (established in 1971), the British Film Commission, the European Co-Production Fund and other regional and media agencies.
   CHRISTOPHER COLBY

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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